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‘Easier to export to Hong Kong than EU’: Scots business halts EU trade due to Brexit

A SCOTTISH firm has revealed how it was forced to abandon all trade with Europe after Brexit hammered the “nail into the coffin” of its export business.

Andrew Duff, who runs butchers MacDuff 1890, said it’s now easier to export to Hong Kong than it is to Europe.

The Wishaw-based business, a 4th generation butchers which sells high-quality, specialist meat, had been shipping goods to the EU for years prior to Brexit.

Duff said it was as easy as filling in an order and pressing go. But now, it’s economically unviable.

READ MORE: ‘We were left in the dark over this Brexit shambles’

“We used to export to the best butchers in Belgium, the best butcher in Germany and a butcher in Italy and the Netherlands,” he told The National.

“But since Brexit we haven’t been able to export at all. It’s easier to export to Hong Kong than it is the continent.

“The main reason since Brexit is that the third country agreement didn’t really take into consideration small SMEs who rely on groupage, consolidated loads where it’s hauliers that do multiple pallets outside the EU so that was our initial issue in regards to the first year – there was no real option for us.”

He said there was only one company that could fulfil the service his business required to trade with the EU.

Duff said shipments took place once per week, travelling by Rotterdam into the rest of the EU – something he said would take too long in the transportation of gourmet meat.

The National: Andrew Wilson's business is being hit by Brexit and the cost of living crisisAndrew Wilson’s business is being hit by Brexit and the cost of living crisis (Image: Andrew Duff)

He continued: “When we did an entire costing I would have to put an extra £1000 onto the bill due to all the additional admin and red tape. When you’re a small SME and you’re not sending out 4-5 pallets, maybe one pallet of maybe 500kg of very specialist meat, putting £1000 onto that means it’s impossible.”

Due to the cost of delivery, he said his previous customers could no longer afford to buy his products.

Duff said the process of exporting to the EU was more or less painless until Brexit took effect at 11pm on January 31, 2020.

“Back then, all I had to do was take an order, book the transport and the job’s a good’n,” he said. “Whereas now it’d be a two-week lead time with all the admin but the cost factor is the main issue.

“The rest of it is a massive headache in terms of admin and compliance but the cost factor had been the ultimate nail in the coffin.”

Duff urged the UK Government to agree to a better alignment with the EU but added that he can’t see that happening. 

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said businesses in Scotland still face substantial obstacles trading with the EU 6 years on from the Brexit vote.

The National: MacDuff 1890 specialises in gourmet meatsMacDuff 1890 specialises in gourmet meats (Image: Andrew Wilson)

Chief executive Dr Liz Cameron told The National: “Scottish exporters continue to face significant challenges trading with countries in the EU post Brexit, as these statistics show.

“Burdensome customs procedures, tariffs, regulatory barriers and transport disruption are the top challenges facing firms.

“Faster customs processes, tariff reductions, removing technical barriers to trade and focused support for easier labour mobility are top priorities for Scottish exporters.

“We need to ensure that Scottish businesses are encouraged to keep looking for international trade opportunities in Europe and beyond,” she said.

“To do that, the UK Government must ensure trading internationally is made easier for Scottish exporters by working to remove barriers to trade and providing businesses the support that they need to overcome existing ones.”

It comes after a group of researchers from the Centre for Business Prosperity at Aston University found that UK exports to the EU dropped by a staggering 40% since Brexit.

READ MORE: Barrhead business loses out on £50k in EU funding due to Brexit

The researchers said: “We argue that this decline has unfolded in three ways: a large number of exporters has ceased to export to the EU, the remaining exporters have streamlined their product lines, and fewer exporters are choosing to enter the EU market.”

SNP MP Drew Hendry said it showed that Brexit wasn’t working.

He said: “Brexit has, and will continue to be, an unmitigated disaster for households and businesses across these islands – reducing Scottish exports by a staggering £2.2 billion in the last year alone.

“For Scotland, re-joining the EU as an independent country, and thus re-joining the Single Market, would help boost trade and improve our economy – but with Labour abandoning their pro-Brexit stance, this can only be achieved with independence.”

The UK Government has been approached for comment.



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