Brexit preparation? It’s a shambles, and will be for months’


Brexit, whether in no-deal or an agreed form, poses significant challenges for many sectors of the British economy. Here we talk to two businesses people for whom overcoming those obstacles is an imperative.

The haulier
“Hell, I think sums it up reasonably well,” says Rob Hollyman, 59, of his firm’s Brexit situation. The lack of definite information has plagued the director of Youngs Transportation and Logistics, based in Purfleet, Essex, with a depot in Southampton. The company has a £17m turnover and 160 staff.

Last year it applied for permits to continue sending lorries to Europe after Brexit, and was granted two – which were then not required in the transition period. Last Wednesday, Hollyman heard that a new application for 2021 had been turned down, for reasons he couldn’t fathom. “Later,” he says, “the EU said UK trucks could go in and out till June. All that heartache, effort and panic was unnecessary.”

Youngs has already decided to subcontract more work to EU hauliers as a safety net, but with many of these reluctant to come into the UK because of delays, costs are rising.

Comments by Michael Gove about businesses failing to prepare still rankle. “How can we prepare with no information,” says Hollyman. “It continues to be a shambles. It’ll be turmoil for two to three months. Ultimately we will cope and get things done. But if there are delays, we’ll have to increase prices, costs per unit will go up, and supermarket prices will follow.”
Gwyn Topham

The food producer
“We’re getting messages from lots of our suppliers saying if there’s anything we need urgently, we should get it now, says Nimisha Raja, who runs Nim’s Fruit Crisps.

The Kent-based fruit and vegetable crisp maker has already stockpiled 40,000 lemons and five tonnes of courgettes from Spanish suppliers. The next big orders will be for cucumbers and oranges.

“The products we bring in are ‘just in time’. We can’t afford to have eight tonnes of lemons sitting around because the documentation hasn’t been correctly filled in.”

Her main fear is running out of raw materials: this would mean letting down customers, which include supermarkets and craft gin subscription boxes. “Tens of thousands of people wouldn’t get what’s been advertised if we couldn’t supply them,” she says.

Nim’s has already reinvented itself this year after demand for takeaway sandwiches, crisps and drinks collapsed during lockdown. It now sells its products as ingredients to other companies, with sales up by a quarter on last year. However a deal with a German supermarket was recently cancelled due to the uncertainty around import taxes.

“I can’t understand what no-deal could possibly mean,” she says. “To get a deal would be a relief – we’re prepared for that.”