Brexit: “the biggest disaster a government has ever negotiated” | Food industry

A A British cheese maker who predicted Brexit would cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds in exports called the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market a disaster, after losing all of its wholesale business and retail in the block over the past year. Simon Spurrell, co-founder of the Cheshire Cheese Company, said personal advice from a government minister to sue non-European markets to make up for losses had turned out to be “a costly joke”.

“It turns out that our biggest competitor on the planet is the UK government, because every time they do a fantastic deal, they kick us out of this market – starting with the Brexit deal,” he said. -he declares.

Spurrell predicted in January that Brexit would cost him £ 250,000 in sales. “We lost £ 270,000 so I got it right,” he said, describing the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU as “the biggest disaster a government has ever negotiated in the world. ‘history of trade negotiations‘.

Its online retail business was hit immediately after Brexit negotiator David Frost failed to secure a frictionless trade deal regarding sales to individual customers in the EU.

Spurrell said he lost 20% of sales overnight after finding out he had to provide a £ 180 health certificate on every order, including gift boxes costing £ 25 or £ 30. He said the viability of his online retail business has come to a “standstill”.

Cheese produced by the company Spurrell’s. Photograph: Paul Ellis / AFP / Getty Images

After embarking on a personal crusade to draw attention to the plight of UK exporters involving nearly 200 media interviews around the world, he was invited to an online meeting with Environment Minister Victoria Prentis , Food and Rural Affairs. She suggested emerging markets could make up for the Brexit hole in the Cheshire Cheese Company’s finances.

Spurrell said he pursued new business in Norway and Canada, but government-sealed post-Brexit trade deals put barriers in place.

“We no longer have the possibility of dealing with the EU because our three distributors in Germany, France and Italy have declared that we have become too expensive due to the new controls and red tape.

“And now we’ve lost Norway from the trade deal as well, because the wholesale duty is 273%. Then we tried Canada, but what the government didn’t tell us is that a 244% duty is applied on any shipment over $ 20. [£15]. ”

This meant that Canadian customers who ordered a gift box worth £ 50 including transport costs had to pay an additional £ 178 in duty when the mail arrived at their doorstep, Spurrell said. “As you can imagine, customers were like, ‘You can take this off, we don’t want it anymore.’

Norwegian duties on a £ 30 packet of cheese amounted to an additional £ 190, he said.

Spurrell is now pursuing the domestic market with greater vigor, but says the cost of marketing has “exploded” because all of its competitors must do the same.

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“Before we could sell all over the EU, now we all fish in the same pond. We used to be the biggest sellers online, but now we’re absolutely bombarded with attacks by all of our cheese rivals because they’re buying all the ads on Google to try and beat us. These are competitors that would never have bothered us before, ”he said.

The “sad” thing, Spurrell said, is that it is small and medium-sized businesses like his, major employers across the country, that have been hammered by Brexit and other government trade deals. , rather than giant rivals. .

He noted that the Canadian company Saputo, with a market capital of over C $ 14 billion (£ 8.3 billion), had taken advantage of the Norwegian deal as producers of three of the four cheeses. “First” distinguished for “considerably reduced rates. ”.

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