Saturday, October 16

Cheesed off: Brexit sadness kills Europe’s British cheese dairy business


In the heart of England’s Peak District, the famous Derbyshire Stilton is made using traditions passed down through the generations.

The Hartington Creamery has revived the practice for the past decade, producing cheese from 200 dairy cows at Pikehall Farm.

The business grew as the company began to successfully export to Europe, where its products were becoming increasingly popular.

That was, until Brexit.

A fresh and perishable commodity, its cheese has suffered from the additional paperwork, costs and confusion that have plagued many British exporters to the mainland since the UK left the EU trading unit in January.

On Thursday (September 16), British retail chain Marks & Spencer said it was closing more than half of its French stores due to food supply problems caused by Brexit.

“You have the implications that it’s out of date, the expiration date, and then it shuts down, then you’re throwing out a bunch of cheese, which is obviously heartbreaking, because obviously all your work is gone.” says farmer Abigail Spurrell.

“They promised us a frictionless deal, that the exchange would continue exactly as it had done before, and it was all total and a total lie because what we are seeing is the complete opposite,” says Abigail’s father, Hartington principal Simon Spurrell . .

The company’s European business, he adds, has been “totally and completely wiped out.” The new costs, at £ 180 (€ 210) per certificate, per destination, are unaffordable.

He got the advice to turn to the wholesale market, but that’s also financially impossible, he says, with costs rising from £ 300 (€ 351) per shipment to £ 1,500 (€ 1,756).

Add to that the paperwork required to export to the EU single market: it takes five people three to four hours to handle each transaction.

“Our partners in Europe have said ‘I’m sorry it’s too difficult to deal with you’ and have abandoned us,” says Spurrell.

The loss of business means that a quarter of the company’s turnover has evaporated since January 1.

At the beginning of the new year, as many exporters struggled with the new demands, the British government advised Hartington to study the possibility of opening a mainland-based operation.

“They are just around the corner, they are already a market that we know. We had three distributors in Europe and, naturally, that was going to be our growth,” says the director, adding that there were positive approaches from the Netherlands, France and Germany. and Poland to settle there.

However, the company decided that it was too expensive and, more importantly, the government could not offer adequate guarantees that it was a safe option.

“As a small business, we cannot act on something for which our own government cannot offer any guarantees,” says Simon Spurrell. “They could not guarantee that there would not be a trade war in the future. They blamed the whole thing on the EU and said that the problem was they and not the UK government.

“In fact, we know that it is equal measures, actually, there is a 50-50 split between the two and they are not willing to compromise in any way, shape or form.”

After the UK and the EU last minute free trade agreement just before Christmas, avoiding tariffs and fees, Boris Johnson acclaimed “An agreement that, if anything, should allow our companies and exporters to do even more business with our European friends.”

Nevertheless, Brussels had long warned that the express decision of the United Kingdom to leave the single market and the EU customs union would bring with it additional costs and red tape., and the British government website details the many changes for exporters and importers.

The UK government has said that support and advice is available for companies in trouble. And that it is vital that traders make sure their exports have the correct paperwork to comply with the new controls on animal products when they cross the EU border.

See Luke Hanrahan’s report from Derbyshire in the video player above.


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