Boris Johnson's Brexit red tape hurts baby clothing firms

 Boris Johnson holds a baby as he meets supporters as he campaigns ahead of the general election

Boris Johnson holds a baby as he meets supporters as he campaigns ahead of the general election - Credit: Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Boris Johnson is famous for making babies. Now his Brexit is making babies unhappy.

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, where Boris Johnson dismisses the unfolding post-Brexit trade fiasco as mere “teething problems”, Michael Gove talks of “issues which I would not describe as teething problems” and manufacturers say: ‘If these are just teething problems, the teeth in question must be Shane MacGowan’s.

No doubt sore gums are prominent in the PM’s mind as young Wilfred Sixtus Johnson approaches his first birthday, but it is the prolific dad’s Brexit brainchild that is causing other youngsters to howl in distress.

The six-word short story attributed to Ernest Hemingway - “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” - is a tale becoming all too familiar to Sheffield-based kids’ footwear firm Poco Nido. The company, which specialises in baby and children’s shoes, does 75% of its business with Europe but says it has been unable to make a single successful shipment to the EU this year, with one delivery held up for two months. Founder Catherine Lobley told the Sheffield Star: “My business is 10 years old and it has been destroyed in a month.”

Sadly, she is not alone. Celeb-approved unisex childrens’ clothing brand Tootsa “has succumbed to Covid on top of Brexit and we are facing closure.” Britannical, makers of luxury coats for children, reports that “Since Brexit, sales to EU countries have rapidly declined.”

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Lottie & Lush, which produces organic babywear, warned shoppers “as a result of Brexit we are having lots of problems sourcing fabrics at the moment. Most of our fabrics are imported from the EU and suppliers have either decided not to service the UK, increased postage costs or are struggling to work out the new systems that are needed to now export to the UK.” Parents bold enough to go it alone and order childrens’ clothes from EU countries are being asked to pay large import fees.

The opposite problem is being felt by British toy companies large and small. Many have factories in China, but goods made there which are shipped to Britain to be sold in the EU now attract tariffs. 

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For model train manufacturer Hornby, that means cutting out the middleman - but hopefully not cutting out many British jobs - by opening a new warehouse in mainland Europe. For Fylde-based firm Kiddimax, though, the only option is to increase prices to cope with rising tariffs and extra red tape. Owner Andy Tauber told the Blackpool Gazette: “If this carries on it will cost £500,000 to our business.” Kiddimax made only £600,000 from sales in France, Italy, Spain and Germany last year.

Johnson and Gove promised us Brexit was going to be child’s play. Yet it appears the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater and the toymakers out of the pram.

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