Bonn/Regio The Brexit has not brought permanent chaos to the borders and a shipping company from Bonn is not at all concerned about the new situation. But the English Shop has had difficulties importing its merchandise on time. The industry warns of a deteriorating situation in the summer.
Actually, Wilfried Wirtz didn't want his trucks to travel to Great Britain at all. The freight transport company from Bornheim had experienced before Christmas how his drivers were stuck for days just before Dover because France had closed the borders due to Covid-19. Then came Brexit in January, and even though London and Brussels just managed to strike a trade deal, Wirtz feared even greater chaos at the EU-UK borders as a result.
"Our customers have been pushing for us to make the trip after all," Wirtz reports. He has now completed 48 deliveries since January, and this is his conclusion after eight weeks of Brexit: "It's all going relatively smoothly." Two to three hours of waiting time before the Eurotunnel or Dover should be taken into account, which is "within tolerable limits," says Wirtz's proxy Dieter Guckes.
Empty return trips back to the EU
However, the whole truth also includes the fact that the Wirtz expedition company does not usually bring any goods into the EU on the return journey from the UK. Foodstuffs are no longer transported at all. This is because Wirtz wants to spare the trouble: Problems easily arise with the certificates that have to be presented to customs, which can lead to delays lasting days. Fish or delicate fruits are then quickly spoiled and have to be thrown away.
This is one of the reasons why British-European trade has slumped since January 1. According to the German Freight Forwarding and Logistics Association (DSLV) in Berlin, only 25 percent of normal volumes are currently being exported and imported. In addition, British traders and producers had filled their warehouses heavily in the last quarter of 2020 in anticipation of the EU exit. The coronavirus has also reduced border traffic.
The “sheer horror”
The English Shop, which has a branch in Bonn and Cologne, has a different take on the situation since the Brexit. "It's sheer horror," says Anna-Maria Böhm, who manages the online store. There, customers can find everything that UK fans are looking for: Clotted Cream, PG Tips Tea and Coke Zero Vanilla, Scottish flags or salt and pepper shakers in the shape of red London buses.
Böhm has been waiting for Easter merchandise for weeks, but the supplier is unable to put together the necessary export papers. "We are currently checking whether we can do this for him from the UK," explains Böhm.
As a result of Brexit, the UK has become a non-EU country, import VAT is now payable on each product, and the retailer must label it with a customs tariff number. For this, the exact composition of the goods must be known. "Breakfast cereals with nuts have a different customs tariff number than those with chocolate," explains Böhm.
To play it safe, the English Shop continued to stock its warehouses over the past year and currently does not order cheese, meat, sausage or perishable baked goods. "The trucking companies leave the paperwork and liability to us," she reports. Whereas in the past they paid for the distance of the transport, today the freight carrier charges for the duration of the delivery - in case documents are missing and the truck is detained by customs for days. Guckes of Spedition Wirtz confirms, "We refuse to do the customs formalities for the dealer.”
Deutsche Post DHL has been preparing for over four years
In fact, small importers and exporters will lose out as a result of Brexit, especially if they have previously only traded within the EU. For a logistics group like Deutsche Post DHL, which already operates globally, the UK is just another non-EU country. Nevertheless, it has spent more than four years preparing for Brexit and has hired hundreds of additional employees for customs, customer service, finance and operations. "So far, we have not experienced any major difficulties as a result of the Brexit," the group says in response to a query.
Consolidated transports have proven to be particularly problematic, as Niels Beuck, Managing Director of the DSLV industry association, reports. In this case, a carrier assembles goods from various suppliers for one transport. "With each customer, there is a risk that a paper is faulty or missing," explains Beuck. In that case, the entire truck is stuck at customs.
Another sticking point is the required proof of origin. The exemption from customs duty negotiated by the British government and the EU only applies to goods that were largely produced in the country in question. This is difficult for products such as automotive components or entire vehicles and those from the electronics industry.
Orig. text: Ulla Thiede