A cross section of businesses speak out about the dangers customs and tariffs pose, with some vulnerable SMEs potentially being forced to cease trading.
When Britain leaves the EU Customs Union, a customs border of some form is probably unavoidable, as the future relationship will be either a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) or based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, and both of these options will require new customs relationships and the establishment of a customs border. Goods will need to go through customs clearance so that compliance and regulatory requirements can be checked. Inevitably there will be, at best, basic EU customs paperwork to fill out.
A cross section of businesses speak out about the dangers customs and tariffs pose, with some vulnerable SMEs potentially being forced to cease trading. Many fear they will simply no longer be able to compete against European counterparts.
Regardless of sector, businesses rely on frictionless trade
“I think the imposition of tariffs and customs paperwork will sound the death knell for my business which is 100% export to Europe. Some of my customers re-export to the Middle East, and I suspect they will buy from the remaining EU countries and not from the UK.”
"Inevitably there will be, at best, basic EU customs paperwork to fill out."
“Extra costs added by carriers in Europe for clearing documentation outside the single market and customs union would make supplying EU customers uncompetitive and we would lose most of our business.”
— Jay Risbridger, The Green Stationery Company, Bath
“Leaving the single market may have little or no effect, but leaving the customs union will add more effort to get products to customers. Tariffs will kill off our exports.”
— Rob Tyler, DR3D Filament Ltd, Weston-super-Mare (3D printing equipment supplier)
Red tape and extra costs will put off customers
The concern that customers will go elsewhere to avoid the hassle and potential extra cost of trading with the UK was echoed by businesses as diverse as a wholesale gift manufacturer and an international language school. Regardless of sector these businesses are heavily reliant on the frictionless movement of people and goods.
“Our customers in Europe can purchase as easily from our competitors in Europe and the introduction of a tariff system, even with zero tariff payment (just paperwork) means it's far less attractive for a retailer to purchase from a UK source”
— Ben Biscoe, Fairyglass Ltd, Wiltshire (wholesale gift manufacturer and distributor)
“We need our students to be able to come here and if there is an extra layer of bureaucracy in terms of visas for Europeans, they will vote with their feet and go elsewhere. International student numbers have already fallen overall by 40,000.”
—Val Hennessy, International House Bristol (language school)
“Harmonised standards are very important commercially, frictionless trade very important for integrated supply chains. UK-only regulation brings no benefits only threats. Tariffs can only raise our costs and cost to our EU customers. The immigrant workforce is important to us.”
— Andrew Varga, Seetru, Bristol (valve manufacturers)
Read more about Seetru's views here.
Within the aerospace industry an international regulatory standard already operates, making questions of compliance less pressing. Concern is focused instead on the effect Brexit will have on visa requirements for EU nationals, as Europe is an important source of skilled labour for the industry.
“Regulatory or compliance issues will be unaffected as aerospace already adheres to an accepted international standard. Access to EU workers will affect the industry as most UK based aerospace companies are reliant on EU skilled workers in order to meet current demand.”
— Peter Marchbank, RPI UK Ltd, Bath (inspection systems manufacturer)