A growing number of retailers and courier firms are suspending or cutting back deliveries into the EU as companies grapple with new border controls as well as import taxes.
On Friday DPD, the international delivery giant, said it was “pausing” its road service from the UK into Europe, including the Republic of Ireland. Separately, Marks & Spencer said it was concerned that a third of the products in its Irish food halls, including Percy Pig sweets, would now be subject to import tariffs. Such taxes could spell higher prices for shoppers.
DPD said new border procedures, including additional customs paperwork, needed for parcels destined for Europe were putting extra pressure on turnaround and transit times.
The company said it was returning one-fifth of parcels to the sender because they had incorrect or incomplete data attached. It also blamed delays and congestion at UK ports for its decision, as well as more rigid requirements for Channel crossings. The firm said it hoped to restart the service on Wednesday.
The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, said he expected there to be “significant additional disruption” at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in the coming weeks. Speaking to broadcasters, he said: “So far disruption at the border hasn’t been too profound but it is the case that in the weeks ahead we expect that there will be significant additional disruption, particularly on the Dover-Calais route.
It is our responsibility in government to make sure that business is as ready as possible, and hauliers and traders have already done a lot but we have to redouble our efforts to communicate the precise paperwork that is required in order to make sure that trade can flow freely.”
Under the agreement, if more than 40% of the pre-finished value of a UK firm’s product was not British, it would attract tariffs.
Boris Johnson was said to have swerved the topic of Brexit impact in a call with more than 200 business leaders earlier this week.
“It was a meaningless call, it was all mottoes – we are going to build back business better, build back business greener – and a few patsy questions about how much better it would be, nothing about the realities of Brexit and Covid hitting us all hard,” said one business leader.
The department store chains Debenhams and John Lewis, which recently closed its international business, are among the big names no longer serving the Irish market. Fortnum & Mason, the famous London department store, has also temporarily ceased shipping to Northern Ireland and EU countries.
The bookseller Waterstones has also suspended sales to customers in EU countries, as has the fashion chain Jigsaw.
Retailers have been hit by the cost of customs paperwork that applies to all imports and exports, including goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
M&S has temporarily cut nearly 400 products from the food and drink aisles of its 20 stores in Northern Ireland. Sainsbury’s has made a similar move and filled the gaps on its shelves with products from Spar shops. The moves are designed to simplify the business and so avoid the delays at the border amid reports of retailers having trucks turned back.