Boris’s Brexit Deal – Dragging Business Backwards

The Liberal Democrats are committed to the inter-connectedness and prosperity of all peoples across our United Kingdom, which is why we were shocked and dismayed when a local businessperson contacted us to share their new experience of post-Brexit trading.

Not one of the fishing companies that seem to have stolen all the recent headlines, nor a company trying to send parcels to France or Italy. This is a company that only sells in the United Kingdom.

So what’s the problem?

Well, for over four decades this company has expanded throughout the United Kingdom. Since Brexit was implemented on 1st January, they have been hit with massive extra costs which will impact negatively on their customers.

But it’s the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland. You know, the part of the U.K. that would have ‘the best of both worlds’ and the part of the United Kingdom that was really worried about Brexit but instructed by Boris Johnson to ‘throw any paperwork in the bin’.

Well, surprise, surprise – that’s not the truth. In fact, nowhere near the truth.

A customer order to simply transport by lorry to Northern Ireland is now costing hundreds of pounds more each trip due to Brexit. Here’s the breakdown of the new ‘extras’:

  • SECA Charge (emissions surcharge EU Directive 2016/802 – yes NI still affected by EU directives)
  • Transit TAD (a new government computerised transit surcharge for trade in NI)
  • Export Inspection UK (at departure port)
  • Import Inspection Ireland (when goods enter Ireland)
  • Import Inspection Belfast (making sure goods are only for Northern Ireland)

Most goods from South West England or Wales travel through the Republic of Ireland to get to their destination in Northern Ireland. It’s the quickest, shortest and most fuel-efficient route. Or was…

So now for each future lorry load to Northern Ireland, this company’s delivery costs have gone up by 40%. That’s a dead cost to our British businesses, making our goods less competitive and sucking out money that could be used to employ more staff, secure better wages or use for more capital investment.

* A nurse by profession, Ellen Nicholson works in a strategic role in the NHS. She is a Borough Councillor and executive member of the Liberal Democrat Health and Care Association (LDHCA). She was the Liberal Democrat candidate in South West Wiltshire in the 2019 General Election.

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  • Peter Martin 9th Feb '21 - 12:45am

    The fundamental objection to being part of the EU, for many of us, was always its mercantilistic attitude to trade. Simply put, it’s their ‘imports are bad’ and ‘exports are good’ mentality.

    The thinking in the EU is that if it stops us sending them our shellfish, or our cheese, or our lamb or whatever else we send then they are coming out on top. They aren’t. Whatever we send to them is the only meaningful way we can pay for what they send to us. Otherwise they are simply accumulating our paper IOUs. They don’t taste as good as fresh shellfish!

    The purpose of exporting is to be able to import. Ultimately everything has to balance. It doesn’t make any sense to export just for the sake of it. But, try telling that to the Germans!

    Leaving the EU was always going to cause some difficulty In the short term. Liberals should know better than think trade protectionism is better than free trade. But trade protectionism is in the DNA of the EU. There is little prospect of changing that.

  • Peter
    The EU will be able to get lamb from New Zealand. The Council of the European Union adopted the decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and New Zealand in May 2018.
    A veterinary agreement to simplify trade in live animals and animal products (while protecting public and animal health) entered into force in 2003 and was updated in 2015.
    The EU will be able to find additional souces for other British products.

  • Peter Martin 9th Feb '21 - 9:24am

    @ Manfarang,

    You’re rather missing the point. Liberals used to understand the arguments. There is an interesting article in the Spectator which covers the free trade vs protectionism arguments of the 19th and early 20th centuries in this regard. Not that I would agree with everything in the article. Free Trade can be a leftist policy too.—is-history-about-to-repeat-itself

    Many naively thought that the FTA agreement as negotiated with the EU would solve the problem of the Irish border. Backstops and borders down the Irish Sea were what would happen if we left without a deal. So, we may well ask’what was the point of it all?’

    The argument was that we needed a FTA to prevent the need for border posts on the Irish border because the IRA would blow them up and destabilise the peace process. We have a supposedly FTA but we still have border posts at the ports of Belfast and Larne. And the UVF/UDA won’t blow these up at some point and destabilise the peace process? I’d hope not but I certainly wouldn’t be wanting to work in any of them!

  • David Garlick 9th Feb '21 - 10:32am

    were we happy with the EU rules when we were amember or have they changed since we left?
    I don’t disagree that protectionism is an ill concieved short term nonsense but buying local is a very good and green thing to do. Food prices are/were kept low and now, I suspect throughout the world let alone the UK and the EU, they are going for various reasons to rise. This will put more traffic on our roads I expect if the round trip to Holyhead becomes the alternative

  • Peter
    The question is of cross border trade between NI and the Republic. With a hard border, the impact on the NI economy would be severe as many NI firms do business with the Republic, they export almost twice as much to the Republic as NI imports. With the Republic remaining part of the EU (no they are not going to leave) some mechanism is needed to maintain what is effectively a single market throughout the island. That mechanism is the Protocol which as a signed international agreement cannot simply be abandoned at will (the EU would impose tariffs on the UK if it was).
    Regarding free trade, the EU has and is negotiating FTA with many countries in the world.

  • @David Garlick – “were we happy with the EU rules when we were amember or have they changed since we left?”
    We were happy, including many Brexiteers who supported continued EEA/Single Market access. The problems arise because of the all or nothing Brexiteers who, it was known at the time, and events have subsequently demonstrated, knew nothing about real-world international trade.
    Fundamentally, when the UK was a member there was equivalence and trust. With a hard Brexit, and the UK wanting to diverge then there is little choice but for the UK to be exposed to the full regulatory framework of which it was major party in creating…

    We just need to keep reminding Brexiteers, they said they knew what they were signing up to and that anyone who contradicted them was put down as spreading “Project Fear”…

    The good thing about Boris’s deal is that it is an improvement on WTO…

  • Peter Martin 9th Feb '21 - 2:26pm

    @ Manfarang,

    I don’t disagree with the concept of a protocol in principle and if it is part of a genuine FTA. Nearly all the problems we hear about are from exporters who can’t ship out their produce rather than importers who can’t get EU produce in.

    So, do we really have a worthwhile FTA with the EU ? There’s no point in being able to export week old shellfish for example. A genuine FTA means that the controls on the borders are minimal. But they aren’t at the moment. A common line of complaint is that it is easier to trade with the USA than the EU. Yet we don’t have any FTA at all with the Americans.

    If the problem on the NI sea border isn’t sorted out quickly there’s going to be trouble. The protocol doesn’t have to be jettisoned providing we have what we are supposed to have which is a genuine FTA. Not a pseudo FTA – if it even qualifies as that.

  • Daniel Walker 9th Feb '21 - 4:37pm

    @Peter Martin “If the problem on the NI sea border isn’t sorted out quickly there’s going to be trouble. The protocol doesn’t have to be jettisoned providing we have what we are supposed to have which is a genuine FTA. Not a pseudo FTA – if it even qualifies as that.”

    We do have a FTA. here it is. We can’t export live bivalves from Class B waters because no third country can do so; (when we were members, I gather we mostly exported them to other member states for cleaning)

    What we don’t have is a customs union, or membership of the single market, so we have to follow all the rules and procedures that come with crossing customs territories, because the EU is allowed to set them as it sees fit, although in fact of course we helped set all these rules when they didn’t apply to us!

  • A vivid example of the ongoing problems surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol and its impact on movement of goods was put to Gove by Lord Faulkner, who said he had received a letter from a heritage railway in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.
    The railway was due to receive something as a gift from a counterpart in Devon and had approached several delivery firms. Of those who replied, two had said they were not accepting any deliveries between Britain and Northern Ireland any more while another provided a list of requirements.

  • I find it wryly amusing how those who demanded we leave the EU, now that we’ve left, still want to micromanage it’s regulations..Had we stayed in there was a case for change; now, no chance.

    Instead of taking concrete steps to help UK businesses trade under their new requirements the government has resorted to pointless waffle as shown by Michael Gove describing the problems as “akin to turbulence on a plane.”
    He said, “We all know that when an aeroplane takes off, that’s the point when you sometimes get that increased level of turbulence.But then eventually you reach a cruising altitude and the crew tell you to take your seatbelts off, and enjoy a gin and tonic and some peanuts. We’re not at the gin and tonic and peanuts stage yet but I’m confident we will be.”

    Mr. Gove might do well to remember that to get the aeroplane off the ground the pilot needs to take positive action; without it the aeroplane crashes. That is our current situation…

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