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Customs declarations after Brexit interrupt business operations across different industries

The ‘zero tariffs, zero quotas’ trade deal agreed right at the end of 2020 has resulted in many changes for businesses and all their staff involved in cross-border operations. From lorry drivers having their ham sandwiched confiscated, through businesses suspending operations to £50,000 worth of shipments being delayed – business for many, is not as usual in 2021. 

Customs declarations after Brexit cause delays in shipments

Despite 2 years of preparations to continue to trade efficiently after Brexit, one Welsh shellfish wholesaler had her lorry, which was heading to Spain, delayed by over 30 hours. 

Having spent a long time preparing all the right documentation for her first post-Brexit shellfish shipment to Europe, which her family has done on a weekly basis for years, Ms Edwards felt confident the consignment would get to Spain without any issues. However, the lorry with live shellfish got held up in Portsmouth for 24 hours and then another 7 hours on the French side. Ms Edwards says the reason for this was not a mistake in her documentation but an error made in the documents provided by the French importer. 

The delayed shipment was worth £50,000 and apart from the stress that this incident caused, another similar scenario could have very damaging effects on Ms Edwards’s family-run business. 

She added: “We’re a tiny little Welsh company, its family-run – we’re fourth generation running it. We can’t afford to take the hit.” 

Other fishermen from Wales decided to take a break before resuming shipments to the EU to see how the UK-EU trade works in practice. For many, the added bureaucracy is an issue. A consignment that previously needed just one document to be filled out now requires around 41 separate documents. What’s more, just like in Ms Edwards’ example, the destiny of the load being transported cannot be controlled solely by the one sending the load – all parties involved need to be able to provide the right customs declarations. 

Contingency plan for the UK food supply chain

Brexit-related delays due to the red tape at the border crossings have raised concerns about UK supermarkets getting the freight in time. Despite the government claiming the British supply chain is resilient, Defra, the UK’s agriculture ministry proposed an expedited returns scheme for supermarket hauliers and their subcontractors using short straits crossing. If the plan was implemented, it would see almost 300 empty lorries a day skip the queues in Dover and Folkestone in order to cross the border to France to pick up the next load and head back home. 

It has been noted that this option would only be open to some of the largest supermarkets and only if their drivers are returning within 7 days. Additionally, the plan would only ever get triggered if the waiting times at the UK ports would reach or exceed 8 hours and the loads delivered to the UK supermarkets would have fallen below 75% of expectations for two consecutive days. 

So far delays have been caused by the confusion as to what is the correct way to fill out the numerous documents that are required as customs declarations after Brexit. This has caused issues beyond the food supply chain, forcing parcel delivery operators such as DPD and DB Schenker to suspend cross-border delivery services.

DB Schenker announced the halt in operations on this route will stay in place “until further notice” whilst they mobilise more staff to help with completing the paperwork correctly. 

According to their spokesman, the decision came after only 10% of their shipments had the right papers attached. 

Preparation and education of the stakeholders involved in your business operations are some of the best ways to deal with the added red tape that came with Brexit. Our experts at UK Customs Solutions have attended additional training in order to be able to assist your business with your custom declarations needs. Get in touch with us today! 

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