‘It’s been tough’: UK exporters on how Brexit has damaged them | Brexit

Angelbond, shellfish exporter: ‘We lost a lot of money’

The first couple of weeks in January after Brexit were a disaster for Ronald Scordia’s shellfish exporting business. “The truck was late arriving, then took 48 hours to arrive in France, missed the connection on the Friday, and wasn’t able to be sent on until the Monday. You can imagine the quality of the produce when it got there; we lost a lot of money,” he said.

Angelbond, the Glasgow-based firm he operates, would normally sell 900 tonnes of live, fresh and frozen lobsters and langoustines caught across Scotland each year, and is so heavily geared up to EU clients that the phone answering machine is in French and English. But it is suffering, as delays and higher costs drag down profits.

Packing langoustines at Angelbond
Angelbond exports langoustines and lobsters to the EU. Photograph: Angelbond

Scordia said delivery times have improved, although he remains worried truckloads could be delayed at any moment. Costs remain high and he fears they won’t go down. “There’s nothing we can do. The only thing we can hope for is less paperwork, as it’s crazy what we provide. I hope the government are working on it, the French and British, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

“It’s been tough, and will be tough again, but we have to survive. As fishermen we’re suffering for it.”

Trunki, suitcase and bag maker: ‘We have an extra admin burden and level of cost’

Rob Law, Trunki
Rob Law said 18 pallets of Trunkis sent to Germany had to be returned due to problems with customs. Photograph: Trunki

Rob Law was already having a tough year before Brexit, after demand for his Trunki children’s suitcases and bags collapsed as millions of families cancelled their holidays because of Covid-19.

The entrepreneur, whose colourful ride-on suitcases were made famous after appearing on Dragon’s Den in 2006, said tens of thousands of Trunkis are now packed up with nowhere to go at his Plymouth warehouse amid difficulty exporting to the EU.

“Everyone has got their hands up in the air saying, ‘What the hell is going on?’,” he said.

Trunki children’s luggage
Trunki suitcases are popular with travellers both in the UK and the EU. Photograph: Trunki

Law said 18 pallets of Trunkis sent to Germany had to be returned due to problems with customs, while as many as 2,000 units meant to be shipped this month are still stuck in Britain thanks to mountains of paperwork and problems with customs. “We can barely find a single road haulier that’s prepared to go to France,” he said. “It’s taking two weeks and it’s not worth their time.”

Instead of rolling off the production line for shipment direct to customers, the firm with £9m annual sales – 42% to the EU – will set up a warehouse in the Netherlands to avoid further disruption. “Yes, things will settle down, but how long it’s going to take I don’t know,” he said. “Whatever happens, we will still have an extra admin burden and level of cost we didn’t have before.”

Brompton, bicycle maker: ‘There is a cost’

Will Butler-Adams of Brompton with blue electric bike
Will Butler-Adams said Brompton has been forced to increase its prices because of Brexit and Covid-19 costs. Photograph: Brompton

Will Butler-Adams started preparing for Brexit nearly five years ago after the UK narrowly voted to leave the EU. Despite planning for the worst while hoping for the best, the Brompton chief executive said Covid and the far-reaching impact of leaving the EU caused serious problems for the bike maker.

“Even though we prepared for no deal, we hadn’t really, because we didn’t know ‘can our IT system speak to this?’, or what do about e-commerce. There were things we’d missed,” he said.

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The London-based manufacturer of fold-up bikes favoured by City commuters had stockpiled £1.5m worth of goods but was forced to run these down as Covid-19 smashed global supply chains last year – leaving it with little to fall back on. Far from two days for its shipments, consignments now take more than two weeks and are sent via the Netherlands before distribution elsewhere to minimise red tape.

Brompton has been forced to raise prices by 5% to reflect these costs, the impact of Covid-19 disruption and soaring bike component prices amid booming demand during lockdown. Butler-Adams said this isn’t enough to cover the firm’s costs but hopes it will settle down.

“We’re trying to take some of this on the chin,” he said. The reality is we’ve taken this decision as a country, and there are consequences. That shouldn’t be the end of the world. But there is a cost.”

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