Shoppers in Europe facing shortage of British goods due to Brexit

9 February 2021, 13:33

A staff member wearing a face mask works at a supermarket in Brussels
A staff member wearing a face mask works at a supermarket in Brussels. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Expats living in Europe are facing shortages of British classics as post-Brexit export rules cause a backlog at the border.

Products including Custard Creams, scones and digestive biscuits are being delayed as post-Brexit rules continue to cause confusion for exporters.

Stonemanor, a small supermarket chain selling British food in Belgium, has struggled to access British classics for nostalgic expats in Europe.

Items including oatcakes and shortbread have also been facing delays.

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It comes as Fortnum & Mason suspended all EU sales due to costly and time consuming paperwork post-Brexit.

New rules mean that every food item sent from the UK to have an export health certificate to prove it is safe to eat.

John Lewis also announced it would be halting sales to the EU due to new export rules, and French Marks & Spencer stores in 20 locations are facing supply issues.

British classics including digestives have been delayed
British classics including digestives have been delayed. Picture: PA

It comes as a survey found that British exports to the EU plummeted by 68 per cent in January due to a combination of customs paperwork and coronavirus disruption.

The findings have prompted the Road Haulage Association to write to Michael Gove to call for urgent action to reduce friction at the border.

The RHA is demanding Mr Gove do more to rapidly increase the number of customs agents from 10,000 to 50,000 to help firms deal with new red tape.Industry bosses complained throughout January that the new trading arrangements with Brussels, as well as the pandemic, were hitting exporters hard.

Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the RHA, told The Observer that Mr Gove had not responded in writing "pretty much every time we have written over the last six months."

He said: "He tends to get officials to start working on things. But the responses are a complete waste of time because they don't listen to what the issues were that we raised in the first place."

Brussels' decision to place barriers on live UK shellfish exports is "indefensible", the Environment Secretary has said.

George Eustice insisted there is "no legal barrier" to prevent the trade, and has called on the European Commission to abide by existing regulations.

The new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 have caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.

Producers have expressed frustration at the lack of Government action, while last month seafood hauliers protested against the Brexit fishing deal by stacking lorries in central London.

Mr Eustice said the Commission changed its position last week, and that prior to that "they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue".

He said in an interview with LBC that the action, which puts a "ban on the trade altogether" was "quite unexpected and really indefensible".

"Whereas previously they'd been clear that this is trade that could continue, and all they needed to do was design the right export health certificate," he added.