Leeds STV
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COVID-19 causes more concerns than Brexit

In six weeks ‘ time, trade relations between the EU and the UK will change dramatically. Companies are not sufficiently prepared for the Brexit.

Business is far from ready for the Brexit. Europe exports tens of billions of euros to the United Kingdom, so the interests are great. However, many entrepreneurs still have to prepare for 1 January, the day of the economic departure of the British from the European Union.

Only 30% of the companies that do business directly with the UK have been properly or largely prepared for the brexit, according to research by the Foreign Office. That percentage hasn’t risen since last year. Minister Stef Blok has therefore started again with a Brexit campaign to warn and inform companies.

Many companies say they are waiting for the results of the negotiations between London and Brussels, which were interrupted yesterday by a coronary event in the European negotiating team.

With a trade agreement, the EU and the UK can prevent import taxes on each other’s products, and agree who can fish where. But in any case, a lot will change for traders if the United Kingdom leaves the customs union and the EU’s shared market.

Customs formalities will increase considerably. In order to keep the trade going, all kinds of links in the logistics chain need to get their affairs in order quickly. “Speculating on postponement won’t help,” warns minister Blok.

Customs have recruited more than 900 new staff for the extra work created by the brexit. With industry, a computer system has been devised to exchange information between carriers, terminals and Customs. “On paper you can settle it down to the last detail”” says a spokesman. “But in practice it will only be clear if the customs authorities have done well.” It also depends on the efforts of other authorities, industry and inspection services whether or not there are truck files at ports.

Anyone who wants to export flowers, vegetables or meat to the UK will have to have them inspected and certified. The Netherlands exports more than EUR 8 billion of agricultural products to the UK every year. The Dutch food and commodities authority (NVWA) prepared for all these inspections, including the training of veterinarians. But the NVWA still has a laundry list of questions outstanding with the British.

Export goods arriving in the UK without proper administration can be returned. Especially in perishable goods, such as cut flowers, the costs are quickly incurred.

Research by the British central bank shows that not only Dutch companies, but also British companies are lagging behind in preparing for the brexit. This is also due to COVID, the crisis which is more urgent for many entrepreneurs than the Brexit.

If a deal arises from the long negotiations between Brussels and London, the brexit still costs the Dutch economy EUR 4.5 billion and 17,700 jobs, ABN Amro reported yesterday. Indeed, demand for Dutch products in the UK will decrease. This loss of jobs is particularly affecting wholesalers, machinery producers and the agricultural industry.

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