“The things that prove problematic are the things that we have expected to be problematic,” said Ms. Jones. “As for the merchandise, it’s all about the speed and accuracy with which people promise the right paperwork.”
Many UK companies – at least 150,000, according to data from the UK tax agency – have never traded outside the European Union and therefore have no experience dealing with customs regulations.
The situation in Northern Ireland is an extra wrinkle. Northern Ireland will partially remain in the European Union’s single market, an exception that avoids the border with the Republic of Ireland but creates a border in the Irish Sea. Logistics experts say the Trader Support Service, a free government service to help companies complete customs forms to send goods from England, Wales and Scotland to Northern Ireland, has been overshadowed by it.
Some companies anticipated problems across the border with Europe, and filled warehouses with stocked goods – auto parts and medicine, for example – before the end of the Brexit transition period. That has kept cross-border shipments at a fraction of their normal level so far. Over the next few weeks, as these stocks run out, business activity will pick up, exacerbating the delays.
Another new problem faced by large retailers with international locations: the “rules of origin requirements”, which determine whether a product leaving Britain is “British enough” to qualify for free trade with the European Union. International retailers using locations in Britain as distribution centers now find that they cannot automatically re-export their products to their stores in the European Union without encountering customs duties – even if the product comes from the block.
For example, a company cannot import jeans from Bangladesh or cheese from France to a center in England and then send it to a store in Ireland without encountering export duties. The British Retail Consortium said at least 50 of its members face such tariffs. Debenhams, a supermarket chain but now bankrupt, Close its Irish site Because of the confusion about the rules of trade.
As companies scramble to catch up with rule changes, the question is: What is Britain doing with the sovereignty and the freedom it has guaranteed from leaving the European Union? The government must decide how far away from the rules of Europe it wants, where it wants to liberate it, and If she wants to pay for it.