Travel restrictions were recently placed on movement between the UK and Europe. This was intended to contain the highly contagious COVID-19 variant. This caused chaos at ports and the Eurotunnel. "It affects everyone," says Wendy Bangels of BP FruitCraft in Belgium.
"We saw it coming; that's why we didn't leave to that country this week. Fortunately, our clients still have enough stock for four or five days. Nevertheless, it's tragic. We hope a solution will be found soon. The countries have, luckily, been talking to each other. And it seems freight traffic can continue. But, things don't look good at all."
“On top of that, Brexit is supposed to happen in a few days. But there's no deal yet. And it seems they're not at all close to an agreement either. Companies can prepare for all kinds of scenarios. However, if nothing's certain, you can't prepare at all. We have experience with exports to countries outside the EU. So that shouldn't cause any major issues. But, say, all kinds of new laws are added. Then we only have a few days to adjust. That will be chaotic," says Wendy.
This fruit grower and trader hopes the current situation will delay Brexit for six months. "How can you be thinking of Brexit in times like these? The world's health is at stake. Governments can't control this virus well enough, but they want to continue with Brexit? How can we decide on two such important things at the same time? I hope that soon they'll tell us they're postponing Brexit. Then we can focus on the task at hand. Otherwise, it will mainly be British consumers, growers, and businesses like ours that will lose out."
“Our clients have recently started stocking up. We advised them to do so. Some of our UK clients are becoming anxious. If Brexit continues, the UK might become a third country. Then we'll be moving back instead of forward. I'm sure our sector can cope with whatever agreement's reached. We just need more time. COVID-19 must first be resolved, and then we can deal with Brexit. Let's first make sure everyone has enough to eat by ensuring supplies run smoothly," concludes Bangels.
“Most people in the UK don't know what's in store for them"
Johan Vrijland of JNV Produce, in the Netherlands, questions the new processes related to the approaching Brexit. "In the United Kingdom, too many people don't know what to expect. The customs and clearing logistical and digital processes could become a problem. That's if there no deal reached or there's a delay."
"I still hope they reach an agreement. But if it will happen, remains to be seen. I would prefer this to be, somehow, delayed. When Johnson gets something in his head, it's hard to change his mind. But I think he'll be pressured into signing the deal. If you are already facing a significant challenge - and COVID-19 won't have disappeared by January - then you can't have a second major issue too. So, Johnson should accept the EU's earlier postponement offer. Then he can prevent the situation from deteriorating," Johan concludes.
For more information:
16A Heer Street
3470, Kortenaken, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 470 951 032
JNV Produce Marketing
2676 LV, Maasdijk, NL
Tel: +31 (0) 174 241 400