British retail chain Marks and Spencer has announced that it will close 11 stores in France “in the coming months”, more than half of its 20 locations in the country, due to Brexit-related supply problems.
“The lengthy and complex export procedures now in place following the UK’s departure from the European Union significantly limit the supply of fresh and chilled produce from the UK to Europe and continue to have an impact on the availability of products to our customers.” France, the group said in a statement.
M&S added that it would cease its association with SFH, one of its two partners in France, resulting in the closure of 11 franchised stores by the end of the year, most of them in Paris.
Its nine stores located at airports and stations, managed with its other partner, Lagardere Travel Retail, will remain open.
“M&S has a long history of serving customers in France and this is not a decision that we or our partner SFH have taken lightly,” the group’s international director Paul Friston said in a statement.
“However, as things stand today, the supply chain complexities that followed the UK’s exit from the European Union, now make it nearly impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled produce to customers with high standards they expect, resulting in continued impact on the performance of our business. ”
In late August, M&S Chariman Archie Norman, who has complained about post-Brexit trade deals, slammed them again in a scathing article in the Mail on Sunday, punishing “a fandango of the bureaucracy”.
He cited burdensome border controls and paperwork demands to enter the EU, especially for products with animal ingredients, and said that, on average, M&S wagons traveled to ports with 700 pages of documentation.
Post-Brexit rules have hit UK exporters to the EU in particular, especially those shipping fresh produce, due to new bureaucracy and controls in place since the beginning of the year. Unlike, the UK has been delayed again introduce counter-controls on imports from the EU to the UK.
The changes are the result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union, a political choice made to become an independent trading nation, free from EU rules.
Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy has prioritized sovereignty over the kind of compromise necessary to maintain close trade ties with Europe.
The trade deal reached with the EU in late 2020, just before the Brexit transition period expired, avoided tariffs or quotas, but the exit from the EU’s economic structures inevitably brought with it new costs and red tape.
There have been complaints that the EU, and France in particular, have been overzealous in enforcing the new rules.
However, the UK got little in the Brexit trade deal on streamlining border processes. Its decision to leave the single market and the customs union dates from January 2017, when the government of former Prime Minister Theresa May decided that membership would be incompatible with the wishes of voters expressed the previous summer in the referendum of the EU.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned in July 2020 that the UK’s departure on such terms would inevitably bring additional costs and bureaucracy to trade with the continent.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism