It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, as the only export that appears to be booming post-Brexit is the glut of UK companies rushing to set up in the EU.
The government’s botched trade deal has left firms with two options: Relocation or red tape and regulations that will make many businesses unviable.
Antoon Murphy, founder of dog food firm Antos, is off to Lyon after 10 weeks of calls and emails with “absolutely terrible” government representatives ended with them admitting each order from the EU would now cost him £200 in extra charges. “The trade deal they agreed at Christmas is very close to as good as no deal,” he told The Guardian.
Scott Clarke of specialist gift company Rex London, is setting up a warehouse in Belgium to deal with EU orders after “we had hundreds of boxes we tried to send in January, and they all came back” because customers in Europe refused to pay extra duties and taxes.
The stories keep coming: The Sheffield climbing supplies company that has set up base camp in the Netherlands following “multiple difficulties” around documentation and extra costs. The independent record label hiving off part of its business to the Republic of Ireland because new charges threaten to push the cost of a £20 album up to £42.
There’s the Manchester silk firm creating a distribution centre in France, with the possible loss of a third of its UK workforce. The Bristol radiator manufacturers pondering a move of manufacturing operations from Bristol to Poland. The seller of classic motorcycles who says of his now-shelved plan to open a new plant in Devon: “The jobs we would be creating will now all go to a new mainland EU country where we will have to start a new company. Our only options to survive or thrive are to move the majority of our businesses to mainland EU.”
But what does it all matter if a few UK firms set up European subsidiaries? Scott told BBC News: “Splitting off part of our business and sending it to Belgium probably means that further growth is going to be happening there. Instead of taking on new staff here, we’ll employ them there. Instead of making more profit and paying more tax here, we’ll pay it there. Basically, everyone is losing out here.”
Meanwhile, Tory MPs who didn’t think twice about shutting British businesses off from trading in Europe or British people from working and living in Europe now moan about not being able to buy a pint without a Covid passport. Funny old world, isn’t it?
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