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Queues of lorries on the approach into Dover

Posted on Monday, February 7th by Pallet2ship logo

On the approach into Dover, there are queues of lorries parked in one lane of the A20 stretching back for miles.

The lorries are being held to avoid the congestion in the town, as they are waiting to board ferries across the Channel.

Even though the queues close to Britain's main trading hub with the EU are quite usual, the situation has worsened in the past weeks. 

Now, a month after the extra Brexit checks came into force, many businesses, smaller ones especially, are struggling to cope.

The situation is very unpleasant for drivers waiting at a customs facility in Dover, who are now fed up.

"I'm waiting maybe one hour, next week maybe five hours, it's always different," said one. "When we're waiting, there's no money," said another.

The drivers declared that there are temporarily fewer ferries in operation than normal. But they also blame the post-Brexit rules.

In 2021, companies had 60 days to complete the UK customs documents after exporting goods to the EU.

But since the 1st of January, the paperwork must be filled in in full before lorries can board ferries heading for Europe.

"For us, the government is staging Brexit bit-by-bit," says John Shirley, who has run a freight-forwarding company in Dover for 25 years.

"That's caused all sorts of headaches for people, they don't know the paperwork properly or haven't prepared themselves - that's what's causing the delays here."

He also spoke about a driver he met in the week, who had been stuck in Dover for four days, with a lorry going to Germany in a journey which used to be routine.

David Pavon runs a small Spanish deli in Bristol, and he relies on imports from his homeland.

All businesses importing goods from Europe have also been dealing with new bureaucracy over the last few weeks. This means that all the consignments which include olives, chorizos or serrano ham that David imports now need separate customs forms, where there used to be none at all.

But later in the year most of the food products he imports will need to be physically inspected as well, when they arrive in the UK.

"We will need to do more paperwork, and pay more, and we might need to increase the prices," he says.

"It's certainly more difficult, but there is no other way unless we close the doors and shut the business. We need to do it."

Furthermore, the actual situation in Dover will have a wider impact. The smoother the trading system can become, the better for businesses across the country.

While some traders are looking for new ways to trade and to cope with bureaucracy and delay, others have concluded that it is no longer worth the hassle.

Global trade rebounded pretty well last year from the slump produced by the Covid pandemic in 2020, but there was not much bounce back for British trade with the EU.

Many European exporters who used to trade into Great Britain seem to have decided to focus their attention elsewhere in the single market instead, or further afield.

For example, German exports to the rest of the EU, grew by 17% in the first eleven months of last year, compared to the same period in 2020. Their exports to the USA also grew by 18%.

However, the exports to the UK fell by 2%. This is the proof showing that Britain is doing much less trade with Europe than it used to.

The government is adamant that traders need to get used to new rules here, and also take advantage of new trade deals to look for new trade opportunities outside the continent. 

Source: BBC News

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