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Opinion: 'Not Such a Great Britain'

“We have become the laughing stock of Europe”: Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said recently.

Sadly, Britain is not just the ‘laughing stock of Europe’ now. We’re in a much gloomier position, writes Dr Jayne Hamilton.

The government has not quite been able to ‘take back control‘ this week as the deadline looms for the introduction of extra border checks on animal and plant imports. Government has failed to grant access to the IT system through which ports can invoice importers for the new checks to port authorities.

In the last few days, Dutch news channels painted a realistic but very bleak picture of the UK, NOS news and Nieuwsuur. Things have gone beyond a joke.

The Dutch are major exporters of flowers, plants and bulbs and may suffer more than other countries in this respect. 

On April 30 the new border checks add not only red tape but risks to produce. Royal Lemke’s, a major Dutch supplier of both flowers and plants, bemoaned the risks to their business.

An extra 5% will be added to the costs for a senseless exercise. The same health checks will be carried out for a second time in the UK that are performed before the plants leave the Dutch borders under EU regulations. 

Meanwhile, in Brexit Britain, a government spokesperson commented:  “These border checks are fundamental to protecting the U.K.’s food supply chain, farmers and natural environment against costly diseases reaching our shores.”

Costly diseases or costly redundant red tape: the choice is ours, or rather the governments.

James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, said the policy “feels like it is constructed on the back of an envelope at best”. The charges will not only increase costs but increase the likelihood of empty shelves in supermarkets.

Time is of the essence due to the perishable nature of goods.

Flower suppliers run the risk of their products arriving at customers in a depleted state:

if the arrival is not timely, the flower heads of plants like orchids start to fall off. 

A spokesman for RBF Cargo Care in the UK warned consumers will simply not be able to buy the sorts of flowers they want.


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