From VAT to health certificates, the UK pays the cost of Brexit

A worker at Hartington Creamery cheese dairy in Derbyshire, UK on January 26, 2021

© Paul ELLIS
A worker at Hartington Creamery cheese dairy in Derbyshire, UK on January 26, 2021

“It is almost impossible to export to the EU”, laments the English cheesemaker Simon Spurrell. Brexit has turned into a nightmare for British businesses and consumers faced with nasty surprises, from VAT payments to health certificates.

Cows in the barn at Hartington Creamery, near Matlock, Derbyshire, UK, 26 January 2021

© Paul ELLIS
Cows in the barn at Hartington Creamery, near Matlock, Derbyshire, UK, 26 January 2021

The exit from the single market on 1 January did not at first sight cause major disruption thanks to the trade agreement reached between London and Brussels on Christmas Eve.

But Brexit has many consequences, often unexpected.

For Spurrell, owner of the Hartington Creamery cheese dairy in Derbyshire, central England, “the problem is the health certificates.”

He found that for every package sent to the EU, be it a single piece or a whole box, he had to pay 180 pounds ($ 250) for a certificate of conformity signed by a veterinarian.

For your small business, this is unsustainable, as 20% of your online sales go to the EU. “We may just have to leave the European market,” he tells AFP, looking to the United States and Canada.

That health certificate, which also applies to meat and fish, is by no means the only complication of Brexit for British consumers, who now pay VAT of around 20% on products imported from the EU.

From 1 January, UK VAT is charged at the time of purchase for goods shipped directly to consumers in the UK with a value of less than £ 135, which in theory makes no difference to the customer. . But this requires distributors to register in the UK, which has led some to stop exporting to the country.

If the price is greater than 135 pounds, the tax is paid by the recipient when the merchandise crosses the border, which results in a possible surcharge with respect to the actual purchase price. It may happen that the delivery company demands payment at the time of delivery.

– Settling in the EU? –

“It’s a bit of a shock to consumers. It’s not a tariff but it will make European products more expensive,” explains Gary Rycroft, a partner at the Lancaster-based law firm Joseph A Jones & Co, in the north-west of England.

“It is a protectionist measure because it creates a trade barrier”, but “that is the reality of Brexit,” he says.

The same is true in the other sense, with purchases made from an EU country to a UK distributor.

“A growing number of small exporters are suffering from rising transport costs, customs declarations, rule of origin, fees and VAT,” says Mike Cherry, President of the FSB, the British Federation of Small Businesses. .

20% of British SMEs have suspended their exports to the EU, estimated last week the cabinet of accounting experts UHY Hacker Young.

“This cannot last forever. When companies get used to customs declarations, things will improve,” says Michelle Dale, one of its managers in Manchester.

The leaders of the main British employers expressed their concern on Thursday, during a meeting with the public authorities, about the “great difficulties” registered in British ports.

Some companies have even established themselves in Europe, far from the project championed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reinforce the attractiveness of the United Kingdom.

The aim is to ship the goods in bulk to a distribution center in Europe, to be sold later without being subject to the constraints associated with exporting directly to customers.

This is what the English cheesemaker plans to do, perhaps in France, he says. “At the moment, the only possibility for all producers would be to have a facility in the EU,” says Spurrell.

bur-jbo / acc / pc

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