Brexit blues wipe out EU business for UK cheese maker


In the heart of England’s Peak District, the famous Derbyshire Stilton is made according to traditions handed down from generation to generation.

Hartington Creamery has revived the practice over the past decade, producing cheese from 200 dairy cows at Pikehall Farm.

Business grew to the point that the company began to export successfully to Europe, where its products were becoming more and more popular.

It was until Brexit.

A fresh and perishable product, its cheese has fallen victim to the additional paperwork, costs and confusion that have plagued many UK exporters to the continent since the UK left the EU’s trade unit in January.

On Thursday, September 16, UK store chain Marks & Spencer said it was close more than half of its French stores due to the food supply problems caused by Brexit.

“You have the implications of it being obsolete, the expiration date, then it goes out, then you throw out tons of cheese, which is obviously heartbreaking – because obviously all of your work just disappeared,” says dairy farmer Abigail Spurrell.

“We were promised a frictionless deal, that trade would continue exactly as before, and it was all complete and utter lies because what we are seeing is the complete and total opposite of that,” Abigail’s father said, Hartington manager Simon Spurrell. .

The company’s European activity, he adds, has been “completely and utterly wiped out”. The new costs – at £ 180 (€ 210) per certificate, per destination – are unaffordable.

He has received advice to fall back into the wholesale market, but that too is economically impossible, he says, with costs dropping from £ 300 (€ 351) per shipment to £ 1,500 (€ 1,756).

Add to that the red tape for exporting to the EU’s single market: five people take three to four hours to process each transaction.

“Our partners in Europe said ‘I’m sorry you’re too much to deal with,’ and they abandoned us,” Spurrell said.

The loss of activity means that a quarter of the company’s turnover has evaporated since January 1.

At the start of the new year, with many exporters grappling with the new demands, the UK government advised Hartington to consider opening a mainland-based operation.

“They are on our doorstep, it is already a market that we know. We had three distributors in Europe and that was naturally going to be our growth,” said the director, adding that there had been positive approaches from Holland , France and Germany. and Poland to settle there.

However, the company decided it was too expensive – and most importantly, the government could not provide sufficient guarantees that it was a safe option.

“As a small business, we cannot act on something that our own government cannot offer guarantees,” said Simon Spurrell. “They couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be a trade war in the future. They blamed everything on the EU and said they were the problem and not the UK government.

“In fact, we know it’s evenly, really, there’s a 50-50 split between the two, and they’re not willing to compromise in any way.”

After the UK and the EU concluded a last minute free trade agreement just before Christmas, by avoiding tariffs and quotas, Boris Johnson greeted “an agreement which should allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with our European friends”.

However, Brussels had long warned that the UK’s express decision to leave the single market and the EU customs union would bring extra costs and bureaucracy., and the UK government website details the many changes for exporters and importers.

The UK government said support and advice was available for businesses experiencing problems. And that it is essential for traders to ensure that their exports have the necessary documents to comply with the new controls on animal products when crossing the EU border.

Watch the report by Luke Hanrahan from Derbyshire in the video player above.

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