Fresh food rotting in cold stores due to a Brexit HGV driver shortage

This week, a major British fresh food distributor warned that fruit and vegetables are rotting in cold stores because of a major shortage of HGV drivers.


At Perishable Movements Limited, we’ve been following the story closely and are aware of concerns within the industry.


If your business is facing supply issues as a result of the shortage of HGV drivers then get in touch with our road transport team. We can talk through the problems that you’re facing and offer advice and solutions.

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Here’s the story in full from MSN:

Tim O’Malley, managing director of Nationwide Produce PLC is one of the biggest companies supplying fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and restaurants across Britain. 

He has warned that perfectly good food is being left to rot as there are not enough truck drivers to transport produce across the country. 

The firm, which had a turnover of £144 million in 2018/19, imported 61 per cent of its products from outside the UK. 

In an article in the Fresh Produce Journal, Mr O’Malley has warned that his industry has been hit by Brexit, Covid-19 and changes to the tax system of HGV agency drivers.  

Mr O’Malley wrote: ‘The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in cold stores, waiting for wheels to go under it. Supermarket shelves and restaurant plates are going empty, and this is now a crisis of national importance.’

He said hauliers have been forced to call their customers to warn them that due to a shortage of drivers they are unable to deliver their produce, leaving them with little notice. 

He said one major supermarket could not get 22 full loads of produce delivered over last weekend. 

Mr O’Malley said he has had an excellent relationship with his main haulier for many years and said the industry has been warning about the impending shortages for many years.    

He said Britain has been reliant on large numbers of EU drivers who have returned to their home countries instead of remaining in the UK. 

Worse still for the industry, truck drivers are not included on the Government’s list of skilled labour so new arrivals will need immigration paperwork which makes the UK less attractive. 

Also, Covid-19 has seen no new British truck drivers trained within the past 12 months.  

He also said changes in the rules of self employment have seen a 25 increase in agency driver charges, which has a further impact on the cost of a delivery. 

Mr O’Malley said British truck drivers are getting older on average, with 13 per cent over 60 compared with one per cent under 25.  

He said the government has to change the tax rules and add foreign drivers to the skilled migrant list to help avert a crisis. 

He added: ‘If not that, perhaps a spike in fresh produce prices as the industry is forced to pass on the huge increase in all labour costs to the consumer.’ 

Mr O’Malley warned the entire industry was facing crisis and the government needed to take immediate action to avoid having empty supermarket shelves.  

The shortfall of 70,000 HGV drivers in the UK has already seen wages shoot up by 20 per cent and consumers are now being warned that grocery prices could rocket to pay for the drivers’ increased pay.

The shortage of lorry drivers has been fuelled by EU workers going back to the continent during the pandemic.

The introduction of the IR35 rules in April, which ensures agency drivers pay broadly the same Income Tax and National Insurance contributions as individuals who are directly employed, has also pushed wages up by £2 an hour per driver. 

Asset Alliance Group CEO Willie Paterson said he is growing increasingly concerned by the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK. 

He said: ‘Truck drivers were rightly hailed as national heroes for helping to keep the UK moving throughout this Covid-19 pandemic – and yet the industry’s pleas for help in addressing the growing driver shortage continue to go ignored. 

#The lack of skilled HGV drivers – estimated to be about 76,000 – isn’t just a problem for the sector, but the wider economy too, with potential to cause huge disruption to supply chains and the country’s coronavirus recovery.

‘Whilst the recent increase in the funding limit for Large Goods Vehicle apprenticeships is welcome, it just doesn’t go far enough. 

‘The government needs to take this issue seriously, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to make it easier – and more attractive – for new recruits to enter the profession, including resolving the driver test backlog, improving facilities and removing financial barriers such as high insurance and training costs.’

‘Brexit: fail to prepare, prepare to fail’

PML reflects on a chaotic few months for the logistics sector, telling us how it has successfully adapted its business, and looks ahead to the next Brexit pinch points.

The drama associated with Brexit has featured heavily on the business agenda for some time, but over the last few months tensions have been running particularly high. Companies like PML, a global operator which specialises in the transfer of perishable goods, have been preparing for the UK’s final departure from the EU since March 2017, when the official two-year countdown began. But the constant uncertainty, amended timelines and unprecedented last-minute adjustments have not made for an easy transition.

The business reports 700-800 weekly truck movements both into and out of the EU since the final 31 December 2020 deadline and the adoption of the new required protocols has been fairly seamless. PML invested a significant amount of time and resource to ensure its customers were kept up to date with the new legislative changes. 

The 90 per cent of those that engaged with the company and took on board the need to prepare well in advance have enjoyed a relatively smooth shift over to the new system, despite the onerous amount of additional paperwork that is now required. However, needless to say, those clients that failed to pay any attention to the regular updates provided by PML have run into problems. 

Their cavalier approach has resulted in a flurry of last-minute questions and enquiries, resulting in unnecessary pressure on both parties. Trying to put in place systems at the 11th hour to generate the newly required export documentation, Movement Reference Numbers (MRNs), phytosanitary certification and copy invoices is simply not possible.

“Those customers that have had their operations adversely affected as a result of Brexit have to concede that to a certain degree this is due to their failure to prepare,” says PML’s sales director Nick Finbow. “However, the government’s handling of events has certainly not helped either. There has been a distinct lack of clarity from senior decision makers and it has been a real challenge to keep up to speed with the constant changes, even in the first week of January we were being advised of new measures.”

To provide further assistance to its customers, PML has set up a dedicated road freight division, managed by a staff of seven to provide a full seven-days-a-week operation. Part of this team’s remit, in addition to processing all the customs entries and Defra paperwork, is to help customers who have got the paperwork trail correct but are still being refused entry at certain ports.

“We’ve had instances where we have submitted the relevant documents as specified by the government authorities, only to be advised that we need to provide other paperwork,” says Finbow. “We’ve then gone back again with the original documentation which was suddenly deemed acceptable. On one occasion, a driver made three separate approaches to get through at Eurotunnel and it was only on the third try that he was given clearance. Clearly, there is an unacceptable lack of understanding and training at some ports, which is placing further pressure on the system.”

PML says it predicted the likely bottlenecks at the ports, which is why last year, it partnered with transport and logistics company FreshLinc to operate an HMRC and Defra-approved Border Control Post (BCP) and ERT (bonded warehouse) facility at FreshLinc’s Spalding HQ, to enable a speedier movement of product and therefore extend the shelf life of perishable consignments by up to 48 hours. 

The BCP was completed on schedule, with a planned launch date of 1 January 2021. However, despite initial approval by Defra and local inspectors, the BCP is still awaiting final sign off from HMRC and Defra. As a result, PML’s customers are unable to benefit from the venture that was specifically designed to overcome the constraints at the ports to ensure no breaks in the cold chain.

“Naturally this is a very frustrating situation, especially since we worked so hard to get the operation up and running within a tight time frame, says Finbow. “It took just five months to realise our plans of putting up 10,000 sq. ft warehouse with dedicated inspection areas. However, we accept that the current pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions have definitely playing a part in hindering the various government agencies ability to sign off the facility. We hope to be able to utilise the BCP, which is in easy reach of both Dover and Southampton docks, in the near future.”

The next Brexit pinch point will be 1 April when further Defra legislation relating to the transfer of fresh produce in and out of the EU is anticipated, resulting in even more inspections. Back-up plans are already in place but PML acknowledges that the company may need to once again review its operations when further details become available. “Fortunately, we are a resilient and forward-thinking business, so we’ve been able to continue trading throughout the pandemic and have successfully navigated the myriad challenges posed by Brexit,” Finbow says. “We are confident of our ability to deal with the next phase of operational changes and will continue to do our best to update and inform our customers as quickly as possible as and when further details are released.

By Nick Finbow

PML Packs In More Investment

Perishable Movements Ltd (PML), the global perishable cargo specialist, continues its commitment to investing in state-of-the-art technology and innovative equipment, with the purchase of a quarter of a million pound (£250,000) multi-head packaging machine.

Image shows: Richard Hoyte, Production and Transport Manager

The latest addition to PML’s Heathrow base will have a dramatic impact on productivity, due to the number of heads (16 compared to the traditional 14), which delivers unrivalled speed and efficacy.  By installing the new Vegatronic 6000 machine, PML’s packaging rate for sugar snaps, mange tout and physalis has doubled, increasing from 40-45 packs per minute to an impressive 90-100.

The enhanced speed of operation requires an additional member of staff (from two to three) to ensure a seamless production line, while the versatility, ease of use and improved access for cleaning all represent further benefits. In the long term, PML anticipates using the multi-head packaging machine for other products.

Commenting on the company’s latest investment, Sales Director Nick Finbow said, “PML has always been at the forefront of ploughing investment back into the business and adapting all operations to offer its customers a service which reflects optimum maximum efficiency. This latest purchase will enable us to pack more items, at double the speed, meaning that we are well placed to respond to delays in the supply chain – eg if a flight is delayed – and counteract any potential disruption to the original onward transport schedule.”

Fill in your details to download the Perishable Movements Limited Air Charter Solutions guide:

The Cost of Brexit on Fine Wine shipping

Despite the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the transportation of wine to and from mainland Europe and the UK was pretty much a straightforward process in 2020. It required a minimum level of regulatory checks and procedures; haulage firms benefited from the EMCS system, an EU customs database that simplified the shipping process for them.

However, come 1st January 2021 and the changes to the UK/EU trade regulations, this straightforward process has been turned on its head. Philip Cox, owner of Romanian winery Cramele Recas, describes the new regulations as “nightmarish” and “potentially unworkable” for small wineries and UK businesses.

“It is fair to say that the new logistics framework has been a challenge for the industry. Even before Brexit, transporting wine was admin heavy. We required roughly 200 pages of documents to move an average shipment between the UK and EU,” explains Ashley Hopkins, Liv-ex director of operations. Adding “Since 1st January 2021 that admin has multiplied. The original 200 pages are still required, but now a similar sized export will require additional documents such as import declarations etc, resulting in around 800 pages.” 

“It’s not just the paperwork that’s the problem. In order to produce these documents you need certain wine expertise, and you also need to include additional parties such as freight forwarders, all of which adds time and costs to the supply chain.” adds Hopkins.

European wine producers, importers and exporters and major transport firms are all attempting to get their head around this new process. The transportation of goods to and from the UK has become much more time consuming, expensive and difficult. A good example of this is from 1st  January 2021, producers have been forced to ship goods in fumigated and treated stamped wooden pallets, which before 1st January 2021 wasn’t a legal requirement. 

In addition, logistics firms must now use ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) Numbers’. EORI numbers are issued by customs to identify traders throughout the EU and are now an essential legal requirement for UK import and exports. Also, under new VAT rules, the tax is now paid in full at the port of entry to the UK before the goods are released. This is a potential issue for smaller businesses.

“The new post-Brexit trading framework has impacted iDealwine in areas that they didn’t see coming. The additional paperwork was expected, but negotiating new rates and new shipping partners were not,” says Alix Rodarie, head of international development at iDealwine.

“New laws and even seeking advice from legal experts was expected, but legal experts unable to clarify or interpret a number of issues relating to importing wine to the UK was not. Customs declarations and duties payable were expected, but the complexity and number of charges for delivering were not.” Rodarie explains that the firm has been forced to build new logistical and legal relationships again from scratch, and then communicate these changes to their existing clients.

“As I’ve said before, it is now easier for me to sell to Japan than the UK,” adds Philip Cox. “Apart from the expense and time wasting inherent to carrying out a full customs declaration, I now have to include an importer’s label on every bottle, detailing their address, etc. I exported 4 million bottles to the UK in 2019 across 12 different brands. So I would have to produce 12 different versions of the label for each wine. Unfortunately, I’ve ceased exporting to my smaller customers. The new administration costs mean that shipping small volumes is not worth my while. The real victim has been the British consumer.”

With supply chain overheads increasing, producers and importers alike must now weigh up how much of this strain can be willingly shared between the key parties, or if UK consumers should be forced to shoulder the burden of the rising prices.

Some experts are optimistic that the end consumer will not suffer unduly. But equally, there is an opinion across the board that smaller brands may now find exporting prohibitively expensive, leading to fewer niche labels on our shelves.

“Our shipping charges have been altered. We used to be charged per case, which meant that we could ship tiny parcels from some growers. We are now charged per pallet and have a sliding economy of scale – this puts our smallest suppliers at a real disadvantage,” says Siobhán Astbury, buying director at Haynes Hanson & Clark.

“There are certainly some wines that have had to go up by a few pounds per case, but for the moment nothing extreme. We’re getting a slightly better exchange rate now than we were at the end of last year, which also helps cancel things out. But it’s still very early days.”

As with Covid-19, uncertainty surrounds the transition into new trading relationships. At the moment, UK customs are overlooking certain checks on goods to ease companies through the transition period. However, when this gentle approach finishes, its forecast that companies should expect long and costly delays at UK customs and excise. 

Both European and UK businesses are also arguing against the introduction of wine import certificates. This new piece of legislation was written into the Brexit deal to replace the VI-1 forms, which the EU currently use to regulate the import of non-European wines.

“As an industry we are used to VI-1 forms for wines originating outside of Europe and this will remain business as usual (albeit a UK version). One of the sections on the new import certificate form requires a customs stamp, which is likely to add an additional 200 pages and 200 stamps – it’s all getting a bit daft,” says Ashley Hopkins, Liv-ex director of operations. In late March, the government delayed the introduction of the wine import certificates until 1st January 2022. Nevertheless, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale, who has been heavily involved in lobbying the government to remove the regulation from UK law has stated that the threat of an eventual implementation of the forms is still “very real.” It remains to be seen whether they will listen to the argument against this extra step or not.

EU Goods Sub Committee report reveals ‘substantial barriers’ since Brexit for UK trade with Europe

A report by the House of Lords’ EU Goods Sub-Committee has warned small firms are “feeling the squeeze” since the Brexit deal with Brussels came into force in January and there remains “substantial barriers” for UK trade with Europe and small businesses bearing the brunt post Brexit.

The committee is calling on ministers to establish a trusted trader scheme to tackle the amount of paperwork that businesses have to complete, whilst also helping with the increased cost of transporting goods and giving firms time to understand the VAT changes when exporting to the EU.

In the Beyond Brexit: Trade in Goods report, it said there “remains substantial barriers to trade with the EU” following the implementation of the fresh trading terms.

It also warned that, without appropriate action, the physical checks currently in situ on plant and animal produce could become a “permanent barrier to trade”, with meat and live shellfish produce worst hit by the new inspection regime.

The committee’s chairwoman Baroness Verma, said:

“The Brexit trade deal struck with the EU may have prevented the nightmare of a ‘no deal’ exit for the UK, but a lot of unfinished business remains between the two sides. Businesses, particularly SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), are feeling the squeeze of the non-tariff barriers resulting from the end of the transition period.

The government must take an ambitious approach to trade ties with the EU. Swift action and further funding is needed to minimise future disruption.

Ongoing dialogue will be crucial to achieving smoother trade. The TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) should be treated as the start, not the end of the UK’s new relationship with the EU.”

The report stated a series of recommendations for clarifying the requirements on exporters.

It stated that “On customs, we recommend a trusted trader scheme to enable more businesses – especially smaller businesses – to benefit from simplified customs procedures,”

The “complicated and varied VAT rules in different EU jurisdictions” were described as “among the most problematic non-tariff barriers to trade”, with the committee asking for “advice and support to increase understanding among traders of new VAT implications”. This is following the government’s decision to delay the release of its own programme.

On rules of origin stipulations, the committee said: “Only goods originating – or mostly originating – in the UK or EU will qualify for zero tariffs. The requirements will hit smaller businesses hardest but clarifications and mitigations, particularly on the re-export of non-processed goods, are urgently needed for all.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“At a moment when small firms are up against it like never before, those that trade internationally – often our most innovative and profitable businesses – are being hit with reams and reams of new paperwork. They simply don’t have the time or money to manage it.

Unless we ease the admin burden being placed on our small importers and exporters it’s going to weigh heavy on our efforts to get the economy firing on all cylinders again.”

Border controls that affect imports & exports post Brexit

Since formally leaving the EU on 31 December 2020, the UK and the EU have been operating under a new trade agreement. In this agreement, goods traded in between the UK and the EU shall not be subject to any tariffs or quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin. However, Customs formalities will be required by both parties in customs areas, and VAT and certain other duties shall apply upon import.


Let’s look at the different stages of import and export processes and how they are being affected, with a focus on Spanish exporters.

Exporting from Spain

Spanish exporters benefit from the fact that intracommunity operations are very simple with regards to VAT. Previously duty registered in the ROI Register by Spanish exporters, needed to have an EU VAT Number and to be registered in the VIES (VAT Information Exchange Service). If both importers and exporters have an EU VAT Number, exporters will issue a VAT Free invoice to the buyer. This rule changes if one of the parties does not have the EU Vat Number.

In contrast, extra community operations are subject to a number of additional formalities, such as obtaining the EORI Number and issuing a number of documents (depending on the commodity to be exported). From the Spanish perspective, and although export invoices are VAT exempted, the main issue is that the goods will have to be cleared at customs before entering the UK and therefore face customs formalities.

Brexit changes in customs policy

The main impact of Brexit for the UK with regards to imports and exports is that it is now regarded as a third party, thus triggering the need to process imports through customs. EU Regulation 952/2013 of the European Parliament is no longer applicable in the UK.

In order to try to minimise the impact on the UK’s economy, the UK Government decided to implement border controls in January and again in April and June 2021. Hence, from 1 January 2021, standard goods arriving in the UK require a EIDR (Entry in Declarant’s Record) as part of the simplified customs declaration process is made. Importers are allowed a six month period to carry out customs declarations, and checks are only carried out on controlled goods such as toxic chemicals and excise goods like alcohol or tobacco, high-risk live animals, and plants.

The initial plan was to implement an intermediate step on 1 April and proceed to full implementation on 1 July, when full safety and security declarations would have been compulsory. However, pursuant to a written statement made on 11 March, the UK Government has decided to postpone both the planned intermediate step on 1 April, and the full implementation scheduled for 1 July. The next significant date in the calendar is now 1 October 2021, from when additional requirements will be necessary, especially for those trading goods subject to sanitary controls, such as products of animal origin, fishery products and live bivalve molluscs, high-risk food and feed not of animal origin, and plants and plant products. Export Health Certificate requirements for products of animal origin and certain animal by-products will come into force at the same time. The UK Government has taken the view that, although most businesses – and the UK’s workforce and infrastructure – would have been ready for the so-called Stage 2 on 1 April, some others needed more time to prepare. 1 January 2022 will bring additional requirements, with a view to setting March 2022 as the date when checks at Border Control Posts will take place on live animals and low risk plants and plant products.

How Brexit is affecting Spanish exporters?

The UK has traditionally been a stronger market for Spanish exporters than Spain has been for UK exporters. Between 2015 and 2019 an average of over 19 billion euros of exports from Spain to the UK took place, in comparison to 11.5 billion euros of UK goods imported into Spain.

All flow of goods between Spain and the UK  from January 2021 ceased to be considered intracommunity transactions and became subject to customs formalities (except for exports of goods to Northern Ireland, which will continue to be declared in the Intrastat system).

Although UK importers are most likely to be affected by the customs regulations, Spanish exporters are also facing related challenges due to Brexit. Customs invoices now must be issued, and goods have to be properly identified with their tariff code to avoid delays. Interestingly to note, the CE marking is no longer mandatory for products sold to UK customers.

Since EU legislation requires that all goods brought out of the EU customs territory be risk assessed and subjected to customs controls before departure, an exit summary declaration (EXS) also needs to be submitted.

How is Brexit affecting UK importers?

Post Brexit, there has been no changes to the general substantive safety requirements required for products to be sold in the UK, with regards to the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR). Neither has there been any change to sector-specific product regulations. The UK Government has expressed a desire to remain closely aligned with EU product safety standards in order to facilitate trade, but the future position remains uncertain. Northern Ireland remains subject to a slightly different regulatory regime and further changes may happen in the future.

Despite product safety requirements remaining the same, there have been two key changes for importing products to the UK:

  • the UK is now a separate market to the EU and it will have an impact on who is considered responsible for the safety of products placed into the UK market.
  • the UK is no longer apart of the EU CE-marking regime, or the Safety Gate/RAPEX regime for sharing defective product information and facilitating recalls.

Product safety responsibility

Schedule 9 of the Product Safety and Metrology Regulations 2019 came into force at the end of 2020 and made several amendments to the GPSR. One of the main effects of these amendments is that the ‘producer’ (to whom the primary product safety obligations attach) may change.

Essentially, the manufacturer of a product will retain the ultimate responsibility for the conformity of the product to the relevant product safety regime, provided that the manufacturer or its representative is established in the UK market. If the manufacturer (or representative) is not established in the UK market, then the importer of the product to the UK will be considered the “producer” of the product, and will assume the responsibility.

Producers must comply with the GPSR and any other relevant product-specific regime and take reasonable steps to ensure that the product is safe to use and minimise risks associated with the product, such as providing labelling and warnings where appropriate and ensuring effective traceability and reporting.

The practical impact on UK importers is that in the absence of the product manufacturer being established in the UK market, the importer will now be considered a producer, and will assume liability for the safety of the product. This exposes many previously unaffected importers to potential defective product claims and places a greater regulatory burden on importers to ensure product safety compliance.

Labelling and reporting

The UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) will no longer be part of the EU CE marking regime for indicating conformity with product safety regimes. From 1 January 2021 the UK requires products being placed on the UK market to bear the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark.

Currently, the technical requirements and the conformity assessment processes and standards used to demonstrate conformity for UKCA purposes remain largely the same as those supporting the EU regime for CE marking. The UK Government may diverge from this position in the future, but currently any product bearing a CE mark should be able to bear a UKCA mark.

In most cases, a transitional period applies so that the UKCA mark will not need to be applied to any products marketed in the UK before 1 January 2022, and products labelled with the CE mark will be considered to have conformed with the updated UK regime. But, in some cases the UKCA mark is already required to be applied to goods placed on the UK market (since 1 January 2021). This requirement does not apply to existing fully manufactured stock, but from 1 January 2023 the UKCA marking must be permanently attached to the product, as opposed to being printed on packaging or applied in any other temporary manner.

Additionally, as of 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer part of the EU RAPEX product safety regime for identifying and sharing product information on defective products and coordinating product recalls. The UK Government intends to set up a similar regime, but until it does, importers do not need to have regard to RAPEX alerts relating to products for sale on the UK market. It may however be sensible to pay attention still if a product is subject to a product recall in the EU, in order to protect importers from potential product liability claims as discussed above.

If you need advice about Brexit and import/export trade legislation, fill in your details below and we’ll be in touch.

Brexit delays at UK border ‘getting worse’

CIPS survey finds nearly two-thirds of supply chain managers reporting delays of up to three days, longer than in January.

Delays at the UK-EU border are getting worse, new research indicates, as Brexit paperwork continues to snarl up supply chains.

A survey of 350 UK supply chain managers by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) found over half (58 per cent) saying that delays have become longer since the beginning of January 2021, with 30 per cent reporting that delays are significantly longer than they were when the new border rules first came into effect.  

As many as 63 per cent of those surveyed have experienced delays of at least two to three days in getting goods into the UK, up from 38 per cent in a similar survey in January. The situation is only slightly better for exports, with 44 per cent experiencing delays of at least two to three days getting goods into the EU.

By far the main reason for the holdups is the time it takes for customs to work through the new paperwork, with nearly half of businesses (47 per cent) citing this as the chief cause. Other customs issues such as a lack of capacity among customs staff and drivers being turned away for having the wrong paperwork were also cited by respondents.

Only nine per cent of people said new Covid-19 protocols were causing holdups at the border.

The delays come despite the fact many new import certifications are still yet to come into force. The extra checks, which will impact a wide range of goods, are due to be phased in from April.

Dr John Glen, CIPS economist and visiting fellow at the Cranfield School of Management, said: “We are well into the second month of the new arrangements and the hope that delays at the border would reduce as freight volumes returned to normal and customs systems became used to the new processes has not come to pass.

“What is even more concerning is that the delays are continuing to get longer, putting more and more pressure on the UK’s supply chains and affecting the timely delivery of much-needed goods. 

“The paperwork required at the border is not going to change any time soon, so we should brace ourselves for these delays to continue for at least the next few months. New requirements for import certifications are also rapidly approaching and these will only add to the paperwork required, causing further delays for businesses.

“The knock-on impact of these delays will trickle far down the supply chain and ultimately result in stock shortages and inflated prices for consumers”.

5 things the food sector needs to know about Brexit

Although it’s happened Brexit is still very much an ongoing headache for the perishables and food industry. The real reverberations from the UK’s exit from Europe are only just starting to be realised.

It’s been a long and fraught journey to Brexit, with most of the population hoping that they would never have to hear another Brexit debate or argument after the 31st December. However, those hopes are dashed because although the laborious and painstaking EU negotiations are more or less concluded, the real work, dealing with the effects of leaving Europe, is only just starting.

The food sector can’t just ‘action’ Brexit, it’s a delicate balance to ensure that supply chains remain unaffected and relationships with European suppliers are kept on good terms. For speciality products such as regional cheese and niche products, dealings with Europe need to be more than amicable, they need to be highly functioning and as strong as the stinkiest cheese.

Having put our Perishable Movements Limited thinking caps on, we’ve come up with 5 key points that the food and drink sector should remember when dealing with Brexit issues.

1. Getting goods into the UK from Europe
The dawning of Brexit meant that the old rule book for importing goods was thrown out of the window. Post December 31st businesses must have an EORI number starting with a GB to import goods into England, Wales and Scotland. If you’re importing into Northern Ireland, make sure you have an EORI number that begins with XI.

It’s also time to fill out those customs declarations. To find out the rate of duty your business will need to pay and whether you’ll need an import licence you will need to check the commodity code. Next on your import checklist will be to ensure you’re compliant with the marking, labelling and marketing standards.

You can follow the official UK government’s guidelines for importing goods into the UK from Europe here.

How to bring goods into the UK from any country, including how much tax and duty you’ll need to pay and whether you need to get a licence or certificate.

2. Getting goods out of the UK to Europe
The new trade deal set out no quotas on trade between the UK and the EU, if goods meet the relevant rules of origin . Check this link and if relevant, you’ll need an EORI number prefixed with either GB or XI plus a commodity code.

Be aware that there is an added admin burden on companies at the moment and this is causing delays in exports. This is because products deriving from animals such as meat, fish and dairy must have vet-approved export health certificates. Manufactured foods that contain animal products are currently exempt, however this will change in April. Unfortunately, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what this will mean for the perishable goods and food business.

Click here for the government’s official guide to exporting from the UK.

3. Moving goods into Northern Ireland

One of the key issues thrashed out during the Brexit trade deal was that there would be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The agreed trade deal sets out a regulatory border between Britain and Northern Ireland, because Northern Ireland continues to follow some EU rules.

Again added supply chain delays can occur at this point because food products are being checked when moving from the mainland UK to Northern Ireland. Following staff safety concerns and tensions with the new rules, these protocols were suspended on 2nd February. Supermarkets have been given a three-month period of grace which leaves questions hanging over the future of the protocol. As soon as we know more, we’ll update our clients.

For more information about getting goods into Northern Ireland click here.

4. New rules of origin


Some more red tape reveals itself in regard to revised rules of origin. If your business is exporting or importing food or drink to Europe, you’ll need to prove to HMRC that you can claim preference for goods. you are importing or give the person receiving the goods evidence of the origin so they can claim preference.

There’s lots of confusion about this specific part of Brexit trade agreement. You’ve got to make sure your business is following the rules correctly and have the correct proofs in place. Although a free trade agreement is in place with the EU, this doesn’t mean that goods coming into the UK have no import duties or tariffs.

If you need help, feel free to reach out to the PML team. We’re happy to share our experience and knowledge of Brexit compliance:

5. Don’t forget your IDs!

For the team at PML, this last point is our bread and butter. All importers, hauliers and supply staff moving between the EU and the UK must ensure their passport is valid for at least six months. It’s also important to ensure that any employees travelling to Europe have new Global Health Insurance Card which replaces the European Health Insurance Cards (the EHIC cards will be valid until their expiry date). Double check whether your employees need visas or work permits here.

Global Health Insurance Card

Northern Ireland faces food shortages in ‘major crisis’

Northern Ireland’s hospitals and schools risk running out of food when post-Brexit Irish Sea trade arrangements are fully implemented, claims minister.

A grace period that limits the level of red tape required to move retail food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland runs out at the end of March.

Here’s Perishable Movements Limited Sales Director Nick Finbow with some top tips for importers and exporters to Northern Ireland to ensure they are red-tape compliant once the exemption expires.

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Once that exemption expires supermarkets will have to comply with more rigorous animal health certification processes under the terms of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

With depleted supermarket shelves already in evidence in Northern Ireland with the lighter-touch trade controls, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots warned of a “major crisis” once the grace period ends.

“It was made very clear to us by the suppliers to both hospitals and schools that if the current arrangement for supermarkets isn’t extended in a few months’ time that they will not be able to supply our hospitals and schools with food,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.

“That is a major crisis and I have raised this with (senior Cabinet minister) Michael Gove.

“Seriously, are we going to have a situation where our hospitals and schools are not able to feed the children at school, they’re not able to feed their patients?

“That is an outrageous situation that we in Northern Ireland have been put in as a result of the protocol negotiated between the UK Government and the European Union.”

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the region has remained in the single market for goods. That requires strict health checks on animal-based food products being shipped from Great Britain.

Some products are prohibited from entering Northern Ireland at all under single market rules.

Sausages and other chilled meats, which are on that banned list, have been granted a six-month grace period to enable their import from GB to continue until June using temporary Export Health Certificates.

Northern Ireland also applies EU customs rules at its ports, requiring customs declarations on goods moving from GB.

Baffling Brexit rules threaten export chaos, Gove is warned

Business groups tell ministers to sort out bureaucratic mess caused by EU trade deal.

Perishable Movements Limited senior management team remain ready and able to provide advice to government ministers as needed and to importers struggling to navigate the red tape of the post-Brexit trade deal.

Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.
Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.

Ministers must restart trade negotiations with Brussels immediately to sort out the “baffling” array of post-Brexit rules and regulations that now threaten much of the UK’s export trade to the EU, leading business groups have said.

Amid mounting anger among UK firms at cross-border friction they were told would not exist, British manufacturing and trade organisations met Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in an emergency session on Thursday to discuss problems resulting from the deal struck by Boris Johnson with the EU before Christmas.

The prime minister had hailed what he claimed was a “zero-tariff” and “zero-quotas” deal that would allow free and simple access to the single market. Less than a month on, however, Britain’s EU departure appears to be anything but pain-free.Advertisement

One leading figure involved in the talks with Gove described the new rule book as a “complete shitshow”. Another said Gove seemed “very concerned” at hearing reports of problems, after a week in which Marks & Spencer was among leading companies to warn that more bureaucracy would increase costs. The source added: “He [Gove] seemed to realise the full gravity of the situation that is unfolding and about to get worse.”

Gove admitted on Friday that there would be “significant additional disruption” at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in the coming weeks.

In the first week after the UK finally left both the single market and customs union, the parcels firm DPD suspended some of its services, bookseller Waterstones halted sales to customers in the EU and UK fishermen warned they would not be able to sell their fresh produce into EU markets because of delays at borders.

There were also problems with consignments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as new border checks caught many businesses unawares. Luxury food store Fortnum & Mason also told customers on its website: “We are temporarily unable to deliver to Northern Ireland or countries in the European Union”, while Debenhams has temporarily shut its online business in Ireland.

Some of the problems are being blamed on a rushed deal, and others on the sheer complexity of arrangements including “rules of origin”, some of which have not been finally determined. Only goods made up largely of parts that originate in the UK qualify as tariff-free.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland business organisation Manufacturing NI, said: “The reason why the UK and EU originally agreed that there would be an implementation period of 11 months was so that people could get their heads around what was needed and assure their businesses were compliant. But we didn’t have that. We had seven days before everyone had to be ready, and one of those was Christmas Day.

“There is a big problem with GB businesses being unaware of their new responsibilities. We have the triple whammy here of Covid, Christmas and new customs rules arriving all at once without any time to adjust.”

Johnson assured Northern Ireland business owners in November 2019 that they would have “unfettered access” to the rest of the UK. “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind,” he said. If anyone told them they needed to fill in forms, “tell them to ring up the PM and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The government was also facing pressure over its Brexit deal from the SNP. Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, called on the UK government to “pay compensation to Scotland”, claiming a “multibillion compensation package” was needed to mitigate the costs of Brexit in Scotland.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said much still needed to be negotiated between the UK and EU. “Industry welcomed the trade agreement that avoided the catastrophe of no-deal, as tariffs and quotas would have been a disaster for exporters. However, this is only a starting point, as there are still substantial issues that need ironing out, with many months, if not years, of tough negotiations ahead.

“There are customs experts with 30 years’ experience who are baffled by what the new regulations mean, let alone small- and medium-sized businesses who have never had to deal with the kind of paperwork that is now required. The great fear is that for many it will prove too much and they will simply choose not to export to the EU.”

He also raised fears about the UK car industry, which could be adversely affected by tariffs if EU rules relating to the origins of components used in car manufacture cannot be met. “Having built up seamless and complex supply chains over decades, the automotive sector in the UK is facing a jolt to its systems that places its very future under threat,” he added. “While there is no suggestion multinationals will close plants overnight, we have already seen decisions to build new models placed elsewhere. As those models that have been built in the UK for many years come to the end of their life, we are likely to see a slow puncture for the sector of investment drifting away.”

Dominic Goudie head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation said talks needed to re-start between the UK Brussels.

“Where problems emerge there will need to be further conversations,” he said. “The trade deal provides the means to do that. It is a question of whether is the will to do so” (after so many months of talks.”

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said there were problems that could grow over coming weeks and months.

“The new import/export formalities are proving problematic for many companies. The lack of obvious queues at the border disguises the fact that many trucks are stuck in depots, unable to head to the ports due to their clients failing to provide the necessary documentation and information.”

Source: The Guardian