Brexit: firms issue warnings over extra red tape as EU rules begin

8 January 2021, 11:54 | Updated: 8 January 2021, 12:01

Ms Fordyce added many seafood companies could not afford the time it would take to fix the issues
Ms Fordyce added many seafood companies could not afford the time it would take to fix the issues. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Delivery firm DPD, supermarket M&S, and Scotland's seafood providers have issued warnings over delays and the amount of red tape they are facing due to new Brexit arrangements at borders.

Industry leaders have said Scotland's seafood industry could grind to a halt due to the additional processes involved.

DPD has suspended all road deliveries from the UK to Europe as a result of the new "complex processes" and M&S said the extra administrative work "will significantly impact" its businesses in Ireland, the Czech Republic, and France.

The Scottish Seafood Association have reported that EU exports are being delayed in Scotland and France with as many as 25 trucks backlogged for clearance due to IT problems in Boulogne on Tuesday.

Donna Fordyce, chief executive at Seafood Scotland, said exporters had been hit by a "perfect storm" of bureaucracy, IT problems and confusion.

She said: "The last 48 hours has really delivered what was expected - new bureaucratic non-tariff barriers, and no one body with the tools to be able to fix the situation.

"It's a perfect storm for Scottish seafood exporters. Weakened by Covid-19, and the closure of the French border before Christmas, the end of the Brexit transition period has unleashed layer upon layer of administrative problems, resulting in queues, border refusals and utter confusion.

"IT problems in France meant consignments were diverted from Boulogne sur Mer to Dunkirk, which was unprepared as it wasn't supposed to be at the export front line. There have also been HMRC IT issues on the UK side that need to resolved ASAP regarding certification.

"A lack of knowledge and understanding of the required paperwork means some companies are ill prepared for the new checks, which are taking far longer because of the mistakes being uncovered. When the systems settle down, checks should be carried out on samples from each load but now entire consignments are having to be checked to satisfy requirements."

Ms Fordyce added many seafood companies could not afford the time it would take to fix the issues.

She said: "These businesses are not transporting toilet rolls or widgets. They are exporting the highest quality, perishable seafood which has a finite window to get to markets in peak condition. If the window closes these consignments go to landfill. The knock-on effect of export falling over is that the fishing fleet will have little reason to go out. In a very short time we could see the destruction of a centuries-old market which contributes significantly to the Scottish economy.

"The problem is no longer hypothetical. It is happening right now. We are working with industry, Government, and other bodies to try to mop up the mess to allow trade to flow again. We are doing all we can to help companies get the paperwork done. It will take time to fix - which we know many seafood companies can't afford right now."

In a statement, parcel courier DPD UK said it was pausing its road delivery services into Europe, including Ireland, until at least Wednesday.

"The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement resulted in more complex processes, and additional customs data requirements for parcels destined for Europe. This, along with delays and congestion at UK ports for Channel crossings, has placed extra pressure on our turnaround and transit times.

"We are seeing up to 20% of parcels with incorrect or incomplete data attached, resulting in these parcels needing to be returned to customers, so that the required data can be provided.

"In view of this unprecedented set of circumstances we believe that it is only right to pause and review our road service into Europe, including the Republic of Ireland. During this time, we will work with our customers to validate and correct the data we have in our system, to reduce the delays and enable us to resume normal service.

"This pause in our operation will be as short as possible and we intend to recommence this service on Wednesday 13 January."

Read more: International travellers to England and Scotland will require negative Covid-19 test

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said "busy times" may return to UK borders as firms get to grips with new paperwork after the exit from the EU single market.

He added that the chaos seen last month while the post-Brexit transition period was still in place was due to the French closing the border because of concerns over the UK strain of coronavirus and was "nothing to do with the change of paperwork".

"We may well see busy times again but actually at the moment the border is in fact flowing and it's flowing very smoothly," he said.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, said: “We are all learning – including businesses – how to manage the considerable burden of this new bureaucracy on exporting food products.

“We know how frustrating, time consuming and indeed costly this is for Scottish businesses – we warned the UK government that we needed much more clarity much sooner than we got on what the export process would involve.

“It is far better for problems to be identified and resolved here in Scotland and not have consignments being turned back hundreds of miles away or refused when they arrive at the end of their journey.”