One of the best things about flying into Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris is the Marks and Spencer, selling “not just any” scones, sandwiches and mince pies.
But Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works for the company’s continental outposts. According to reports on Twitter, shipments of sandwiches from the UK have failed to arrive at a handful of the company’s 18 food stores in France.
The quintessentially British franchise sells approximately one million sandwiches to French customers every year. Yet shoppers have been greeted by empty shelves at stores in Paris and Lille over the past two days. A notice at the M&S Porte Maillot store in Paris told customers yesterday that the delivery issues were due to “new government regulations relating to trade between the UK and France”.
M&S are working to resolve the issue, but could these hold-ups be a sign of things to come? Several France-based epicures have raised concerns on Twitter over future deliveries to M&S food stores of Wensleydale and Cheddar cheese, chicken tikka masala and Cumberland sausages.
Even if many companies were able to stockpile goods during the last few weeks of the UK’s EU membership, hauliers transporting perishables from Britain must be able to continue travelling across the English Channel.
Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) told the Guardian on 31 December 2020 that “I don’t think we will start to see things getting back to normal levels of traffic until the second week in January.” The French M&S haulage hiccup must indicate that lorry drivers are eager to get back to work but now have to face significant post-Brexit bureaucracy, even if traffic has been calm over the past few days.
Similar problems to those experienced by M&S may come for French importers of Scottish salmon. France imported more Scottish salmon than any other country in 2019. The Scottish Salmon Producers Association is concerned, however, about the sector spending an estimated £1.3 million on time-consuming Export Health Certificates. The Association is also worried about the possibility of long border queues, which could destroy perishables like fish.
The UK Government has made clear that companies themselves are responsible for meeting post-Brexit paperwork requirements. But isn’t it funny that a vote to leave behind the bureaucracy of Brussels has resulted in costly form-filling for British traders?
Photo: France – M&S La Défense (M&S Multimedia Library).