With BREXIT looming ever closer there is an awful amount of uncertainty surrounding the flower trade in the Uk. There are no exact figures but approximately 75-80% of the flowers that enter the Uk currently enter from Holland primarily though the Channel Tunnel.
So where do we stand on March the 29th? This will all depend on where the Government take us.
There are three likely outcomes.
- We agree Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union which has three main agendas, A) Britain’s financial settlement with the EU to meet agreed commitments. B) The post-Brexit rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens on the continent and C) A mechanism to prevent a “hard border” on the island of Ireland. The agreement also includes a non-binding political declaration outlining the UKs ambitions for their desired future trading relationship, on which negotiations have yet formally to start. In effect Britain will leave the EU on March 29 but remain inside the bloc’s single market and bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides work out a new trade relationship.
- NO Trade Deal. This is the nightmare outcome which would cause huge difficulty to the flower trade. We would in effect leave the EU and not be able to trade with Holland as we currently do. The UK would revert to World Trade Organisation rules on trade. While the Uk would no longer be bound by EU rules, it would have to face the EU’s external tariffs. Everything entering the Uk from Holland would be subject to tariffs making them more expensive but more importantly given that we work with ‘Living Plant Products’ be subject to strict import laws and procedures and add delays to delivery times.
- The Government seek an extension to Article 50. This would in effect delay the UK leaving the EU and trade would for the time being continue as is. Opinion on this is split, while Ireland, who would have a lot to lose with a No Deal, are backing an extension other member states have indicated they may block an attempt to extend Article 50.
What does this mean for the flower trade? To continue trading after the 29th March you will have to plan for all possible outcomes, failure to do so could be catastrophic for your business. If by some miracle everything goes our way and we get a great Trade Deal then we can continue to trade with little inconvenience other than slightly higher prices and a small delay in delivery time but if you are not prepared for the worst outcome (No Deal) and you buy direct from Holland then you will be unable to buy from your usual suppliers without the correct accreditation.
As one of the UKs leading Grower Wholesalers and Wholesaler of the Year we have been have been conversing closely with The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and The Animal and Plant Health Agency for several months to make sure we are prepared for Brexit. So what do we need to know?
The flower trade is not like other import trades, we deal with live products that are governed under strict rules by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) due to the possibility of foreign diseases and the like entering our ecosystem. Currently flowers can move between EU states with relative ease but once we leave the EU everything coming into the Uk will become ‘Regulated Commodities’ and need to be monitored and checked closely.
If you plan to buy flowers or plants direct from a Dutch company based in Holland you will need to register as an ‘Importer’. This is done via the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates from the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate website commonly known as PEACH which regulates any and all plant and plant products (Cut Flowers) entering the UK. You will also need to apply for an Economic Operators Registration and Identification number. Businesses and people wishing to trade with another country must use the EORI number as an identification number in all customs procedures when exchanging information with Customs administrations.
Your Dutch supplier will need to provide you with a Phytosanitary Certificate (PC), Bill of lading and cargo manifest or company Invoice. All of these documents will need to be scanned and registered though PEACH. Also the original copy of the PC should be posted within 3 days of each consignment arriving in the UK.
Over the past few months we have heard various views including ‘we will wait and see what happens’, ‘Our Dutch supplier will sort it out’, ‘We are paying into a UK Bank account so we should ok’, ‘Our supplier sends it to a UK Courier’ and ‘we’ll just carry on regardless’.
When buying flowers from a Dutch supplier your name will be on the paperwork as the destination of the goods, without implementing any of the above procedures you will be unable to get your flowers legally into the Uk. However If you are buying your flowers from a UK based supplier then none of the above will affect you, UK suppliers like ourselves will be doing all of the appropriate customs paperwork in the same way we have before bringing in Third-Country Imports. Our customers will be able to buy from us and from our Webshop without a care in the world just as they always have done.
For more information on how Brexit may affect you can contact DEFRA & APHA though the gov.uk portals.