Irish Sea Border: Mixed food loads pose problems for traders, BBC

  • Mixed loads of food products have emerged as the major problem for trade across the new Irish Sea border. “Groupage” is a type of haulage where goods from different companies for different customers are grouped together on one lorry and it is causing problems with food products which face strict EU rules when moving from GB-NI.
  • Food products such as meat, milk and fish now need to be certified by vets when moving from GB to NI. This certification is being phased in for retailers but already applies in full for food service and catering firms. When the certificates are issued the lorry trailer is supposed to be sealed which is relatively straightforward when one company in GB is sending a load directly to another company in NI.
  • However, a groupage movement could involve picking up goods from several different warehouses with loads potentially moving from one lorry to another along the way. This means trailer seals having to be broken, goods recertified and seals reapplied multiple times. This is proving complex, time consuming and prone to error. Therefore, many hauliers are now refusing to transport groupage food loads which is a particular concern for small and medium food companies in Northern Ireland which regularly receive products as parts of groupage shipments.
  • Seamus Leheny from Logistics UK said “there are some signs from some businesses that they are getting on top of things”, but he thought “the original problems from day one are persisting and for some operators they have deteriorated”. “That’s around groupage, so it is picking up small consignments of food and that is something government is looking at urgently.”
  • In a statement a spokesperson for the UK government said: “The grace periods for businesses moving goods between GB and NI are in operation and working well. The Trader Support Service provides free advice and support to businesses of all sizes and since the 1st January, over 99% of TSS processed declarations have been completed within 15 minutes. We recognise some challenges faced by haulage, such as on the issue of groupage, and we are working intensively with industry to resolve these.”

UK officials upbeat on EU data adequacy decision in coming months despite delays, MLex

  • The UK expects the European Commission to conclude its “data adequacy” assessment within four months as its regulatory equivalence gives the bloc “no reason” to drag its feet, UK data minister John Whittingdale said today. His position received the backing of the country’s final EU commissioner, but Julian King also warned of the risk of likely legal challenges from citizens’ rights and privacy campaigners.
  • He stressed that the UK has adhered to a legal framework based on the EU’s strict General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, and deserves a fast adequacy finding. “We see no reason why the UK should not be awarded adequacy in this timeframe,” he added. 
  • The UK position received backing from Julian King, the country’s final EU commissioner. But he warned of the likely prospect of a legal challenge either from the European Parliament or individual privacy campaigners. He said lawmakers should note that “it can be challenged, as it has been in respect to the US,” a reference to the EU courts’ voiding of the EU-US Privacy Shield data-transfer agreement. 
  • However, the UK government is currently involved in a legal battle with the EU citizens’ rights organization The3million and the Open Rights Group which challenged the Home Office’s use of the immigration exemption under the Data Protection Act 2018. The groups argue that the “immigration exemption” is incompatible with the GDPR and unnecessarily limits the rights of millions of people in its aim to give greater government control over immigration processes. The challenge will be heard by the Court of Appeal on Feb. 23 and 24.

U.K. Businesses Drowning in Red Tape Under Brexit Border Rules, Bloomberg

  • From health certificates to new taxes and additional paperwork, the cost of moving goods across the English Channel is rising due to Britain’s exit from the EU. Just 6% of firms told the Bank of England they were fully prepared for what was to come, and the headaches are just starting less than two weeks into the new system. All told, Brexit may cost British exporters £25 billion this year as a result of weak demand and more red tape, shaving 1.1% off gross domestic product, according to a report Tuesday by the trade insurance company Euler Hermes Group SAS.
  • Rules of Origin. Confusion about the rules has already prompted complaints from big-name retailers such as Marks & Spencer Group Plc. Others have suspended sales to the EU. Debenhams temporarily switched off its Irish e-commerce site, while John Lewis Partnership Plc, Asos Plc, and Fortnum & Mason stopped deliveries to Ireland.
  • VAT. British exporters must register to pay VAT in EU nations. That is prompting a number of companies to halt their cross-border trade, said Stuart Lisle, chair of the Brexit taskforce at professional services firm BDO LLP.
  • Health Checks. The Brexit deal didn’t align rules for cross-border shipments of phyto-sanitary products, which cover plants and seeds. Farm goods qualify for zero-tariff, zero-quota terms, but that doesn’t apply to live plants. Andrew Skea, director of Potato House in Dundee said “Now we’ll need phyto-sanitary certificates, and the paperwork’s going to have to accompany every order.”
  • Red Tape and Paperwork. In an effort to simplify the forms they must file, some shippers are now refusing to carry loads containing a mix of different products from different companies, according to trade body Scotland Food and Drink. That disproportionately hurts firms shipping in smaller quantities. Another issue is that the terms of the deal were announced only days before the deadline for compliance.
  • Port Delays and Costs. The cost of shipping goods across the border is rising with delays at ports and some trucking firms reluctant to deal with the hassle. “Things keep getting stuck,” said Oliver Conger, managing director of Rototherm Group, a maker of sensors and now personal protective equipment. “I’m now having to buy up what stock there is in the U.K. at three times the price.”
  • Dueling Certifications. Products sold in the EU require a CE mark showing they meet health, safety and environmental standards. “It’s such a ridiculous level of duplication,” Renee Watson, founder of The Curiosity Box. With annual sales of £500,000, the company will have to spend £20,000 on new safety marks to sell in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

Jessica's practice focuses on international trade and anti-bribery work, encompassing customs, export control and sanctions matters. Jessica's trade work includes advising international clients on fast-moving and evolving EU and UN sanctions, notably in respect of Iran and Russia, and on compliance with UK and EU export controls. Her trade experience also includes advising on tariff classification and customs valuations. Jessica's anti-bribery experience includes assisting with investigations, and advising clients on compliance with anti-bribery laws. Jessica has also taken a lead role in monitoring Brexit-related developments; analysing how they will affect the UK's trading position generally, and clients' businesses specifically. She has helped clients begin to conduct risk assessments of how Brexit will impact their businesses, and has assisted them in developing tailored Brexit strategies. Jessica also presents at various seminars, webinars, and conferences on the complexities of Brexit. Jessica advises global clients on complex issues arising from international transactions and works with clients across a number of sectors including pharmaceuticals, defence, finance, aviation, energy, and telecommunications. Jessica has also worked previously in Paris, and is fluent in French.

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