British retailers are concerned at new trade barriers being applied after last month’s trade deal with the EU.
Many traders now believe they will be paying taxes on exports and imports of certain types of food and clothing that are not fully made in Britain.
There are also signs that they are struggling with new paperwork requirements following the post-Brexit deal.
Some parcel companies have suspended road deliveries to Europe as a result.
Britain sealed a trade deal with the European Union (EU) on 24 December that was billed as preserving its zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the bloc’s single market.
But major retailers that use the UK as a distribution hub for European business could face possible tariffs if they re-export goods to the EU.
“Tariff free does not feel like tariff-free when you read the fine print,” Marks & Spencer’s chief executive Steve Rowe told Reuters.
“For big businesses, there will be time-consuming workarounds but for a lot of others this means paying tariffs or rebasing into the EU.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents more than 170 major retailers, is working with members on short-term options and is seeking dialogue with the government and the EU on longer-term solutions to mitigate the effects of the new tariffs.
The Cabinet Office said it was working closely with businesses to help them adapt to any new trading arrangements.
Scottish seafood exporters say they have been hit by a “perfect storm” of Brexit disruption, which could sink a centuries-old industry.
“These businesses are not transporting toilet rolls or widgets. They are exporting the highest quality, perishable seafood which has a finite window to get to markets in peak condition,” said Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland.
“If the window closes these consignments go to landfill.”
She said the sector has already been weakened by Covid-19, the closure of the French border before Christmas as well as “layer upon layer” of problems associated with Brexit.
The group fears that without exports, the fishing fleet will have little reason to go out.
“In a very short time we could see the destruction of a centuries-old market which contributes significantly to the Scottish economy,” added Ms. Fordyce.
Lost in the mail
The parcel delivery service DPD UK said it has paused its European Road Service due to the ‘”increased burden” of the customs paperwork for packages heading to the EU, including the Republic of Ireland.
DPD said 20% of parcels had “incorrect or incomplete data attached”, which meant they would have to be returned.
In an email to its business customers, the company said that it had been a “challenging few days” for its international operation and that it would “pause and review” its service. It plans to restart on 13 January.
“It has now become evident that we have an increased burden with the new, more complex processes, and additional customs data we require from you for your parcels destined to Europe,” the firm wrote.
Hauliers grinding gears
The boss of one of Wales’ largest haulers said logistical problems have emerged at the Irish border too.
Andrew Kinsella, managing director of Gwynedd Shipping, said his company has a backlog of 60 lorries waiting to be shipped to Dublin.
He said many haulers are finding that their customers are not able to generate the special declarations that are needed to ultimately enable a lorry to get onto a ferry.
“Whilst you don’t see queues at ports and terminals the reality is that these queues are developing elsewhere in our depot in Holyhead, in our depot in Deeside and in our depot in Newport in South Wales and lots of haulers have depots in the proximity of ports,” he said.
“There are a lot of issues about demarcation about who is going to arrange the export declaration with the UK revenue authorities, who’s going to arrange the import declaration, the haulers then trying to arrange the import safety and security declaration to create an ENS number which helps you generate a PBN number so there has been a lot of everyone finding their feet”.