Brexit: UK exporters face more hassles | Sunday Observer

Brexit: UK exporters face more hassles

7 February, 2021

“It’s slow, it’s outdated, it’s challenging in a number of ways we never expected,” says Charlie Samways.

His grandfather founded Dorset-based fish merchant Samways, 60 years ago, selling fish from a wooden barrow.

Today, with Charlie as sales director, the firm promises to get its fish and seafood “from port to plate” in 24-hours.But extensive paperwork, rising costs and border delays following the end of the Brexit transition period have put that pledge under threat.

Samways buys seafood from 150 local fishermen who operate in Lyme Bay.

Its most popular products are Dover sole, lemon sole, cuttlefish and plaice - about 90% of which is exported to France, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy on its fleet of lorries. On Monday, Samways oversaw the shipment of several tonnes these fish, as well as scallops and seabass, to the EU on one truck.

Before the end of the Brexit transition period, the process was simple, he said. Each shipment needed a delivery note, made up of just one or two forms and invoices.

But the UK is now outside the EU - and its customs union and single market - so exporters face a very different set of requirements.

To begin with, British exporters need an ID number (called an EORI number).

They must also make sure the fishermen they work with have a licence to sell sea fish and register their own premises as an “approved establishment” to do business with the EU.

The firm had taken these steps ahead of time and felt “ready to go on day one” when the new trade rules came in, Samways says. But the day-to-day reality is different.

Two employees out of eight in the Samways office now focus on Brexit-related administration.

Chris Sheath and Katie Smith start filling out the new necessary forms for the lorry at 08:00. For each shipment, they must fill out and submit a catch certificate, which proves that the fish was caught legally.

That involves manually entering on a government website 149 different lines of data that was not previously required, such as the name of the vessel that caught the fish and the type of species being exported. The certificate for this shipment is 27 pages long.

They also have to get an export health certificate for each consignment to prove that the fish meets EU health standards.

Information on the products, such as species and the weight of the fish, is uploaded and sent to an approved vet, who has to inspect the goods on-site later.

Samways is considering recruiting a new employee to tackle the extra forms, which take until 13:00 to complete. That would cost the firm £30,000-£40,000 per year.

“We are a family business and you get used to the fact that you do long hours. But Brexit means we have to put an unholy amount of pressure onto every member of the team.” - BBC