EU shame as wrong colour ink on customs slips stopping thousands of pounds of products

Brexit: EU stopped lobster shipment over wrong colour ink

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Thousands of pounds worth of products are being turned away at Europe’s borders because the wrong ink was used in customs forms. It comes as a fresh analysis dissected the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) 11 months after it came into effect. The TCA sets out preferential arrangements in areas such as trade in goods and services, digital trade, fisheries, as well as many other things.

It is underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field and respect for fundamental rights.

While the TCA comes nowhere near the level of economic integration that the UK had with the EU before Brexit, it does go beyond traditional free trade arrangements the EU and others have secured with countries around the world.

However, a new Channel 4 Dispatches investigation has found that the TCA has actually impeded many businesses around the UK.

One instance saw The Lobster Pot, a shellfish exporter located in Anglesey, North Wales, faced with mass returns of its product due to tiny administrative errors.

This has cost the small company “tens of thousands of pounds”.

Julie Hill, Projects Manager at The Lobster Pot, told Dispatches: “We support a lot of families, 30 to 40 local fishermen and their families.”

Prior to the Brexit deal, Lobster Pot ran a “frictionless” operation in its exports, sending 80 percent of their fresh live lobster to one of Europe’s biggest seafood markets in France, five days a week.

Because the company was selling a premium product, it did not fill its own lorry, instead sharing transport costs with other exporters.

But since January of this year, Lobster Pot’s slick operation has been thrown into chaos.

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Whereas before, the company could meet with other hauliers and have its produce delivered straight from Anglesey to France, they now have to send their produce to either Grimsby or Glasgow before it then travels down to Dover and on to Boulogne.

This is because the haulage companies have to have the goods inspected by a vet at source, and the trucks have to be sealed, both new post-Brexit requirements.

A container cannot be opened after being sealed until it has arrived at its destination.

Ms Hill now has to load her lobsters with her closest seafood exporter, in Scotland, and start the journey to France from there.

She said it adds countless hours to the overall journey and doubles the company’s costs, as well as doubling the cost of fuel.

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She said: “We’ve got the added cost of a health certificate at £50, we’ve got the cost of doing the export declaration which is a flat fee, plus the percentage of the total value of the consignment.

“I would think our costs are about 20 percent higher.”

Her profit margins have been further eroded when avoidable admin errors like using the wrong colour ink results in whole consignments of lobsters getting rejected by customs officials.

She explained: “In the last few weeks, we’ve had two or three loads that have been stopped, and sometimes we can just miss a tiny thing on the paperwork and that’s why it gets stopped.

“This could be that the health authorities have signed it with the wrong coloured ink.”

The show’s presenter, Harry Wallop, asked: “So the wrong colour ink can stop a containment worth tens of thousands of pounds getting through?” To which Ms Hill replied: “Yes.”

The Lobster Pot has continued to export to the EU, and their sales remain strong.

But in order to mitigate the new costs, they have had to lay off a quarter of their staff.

Earlier this year, another Welsh shellfish wholesaler admitted she was worried about the future of her business.

This was after nearly £50,000 of lobsters, prawns and crabs were delayed for more than 30 hours on a lorry to Spain.

Nerys Edwards and her family before her have been sending live shellfish from Pembrokeshire to Spanish customers every week.

But because of the new border rules, her business became severely impacted.

While the shellfish industry in Wales is not large, it is an important part of many communities.

It is worth an estimated £13.3million, while the mussel industry boosts the Welsh economy by an additional £10.7million

Before the TCA came into effect, 90 percent of Welsh shellfish was being exported to the EU.

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