On Sunday 31st January 2021, a year will have passed since ‘Brexit Day’, the beginning of the eleven-month long transition period in which the UK and EU would negotiate for a trade deal to begin in 2021. At 11pm, British time, of 31st January 2020, the UK officially left the EU and there were parties and fireworks thrown by people who voted to leave the EU to celebrate a new chapter for the UK. One year on from Brexit Day, UK businesses are being encouraged to set up separate companies in the EU to avoid Brexit costs. During the week the UK passed the grim death total of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths, it rowed with the EU over the British supply of vaccines, Northern Ireland faced further disruption to supply chains and joined Scotland in questioning its future in the UK.
So, let’s see more in detail what happened this week across both sides of the Channel in the continued Brexit saga…
Vaccine row with EU
The UK was the first country in the world to administrate the Covid-19 vaccine to its elderly population- just over 7 million people have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. Nevertheless, on Thursday 28th January, the EU decided that a The UK firm AstraZeneca blamed production problems, which had caused a shortfall in the delivery of vaccines, on the factories in the Europe. The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said the firm should move production to the UK if they are going to blame Europe.
Set up in the EU to avoid costs from the EU…
In a hard to believe recent development, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade encouraged British businesses that export to the EU, to set up separate companies within the Union to avoid any disruption to their trade. The Department for International Trade was quick to clarify that this statement was not going to become government policy, rather just good advice for businesses to get around the extra charges, paperwork and taxes which have resulted due to Brexit.
Since 1st January 2021, businesses sending items from the UK to the EU are required to fill in a customs declaration form for every package. Postage charges have increased as well as taxes. If a product has more than 40% of its pre-finished value that is neither British nor EU origin, then it will attract tariffs.
These complexities have made it increasingly difficult for businesses to continue trade seamlessly as they were able to when the UK was part of the EU’s single market and customs union. Discontent from former Brexit supporters is also fast rising, with some business owners, who voted to leave the EU, expressing
Cannabis cause for concern
In other news, since the end of the transition period, there have been reports of children with severe illnesses who were receiving a prescription of medicinal cannabis prior to the end of the transition period, and now left unable to access life altering drugs. Parents of children requiring the drugs have called on the government to allow these drugs to enter the UK and representatives from government departments have now said they would review the rules to allow those who require the drug to be able to access it.
Other disruption to cannabis products might be seen in Northern Ireland after it was published on the UK Food Standard Agency’s website that the EU law will continue to apply to Northern Ireland after the deadline for UK novel food applications passes on 31st March. This means that if companies were looking to seek authorisation for their CBD products to be placed on the Northern Ireland market, they would have to continue to follow EU rules and its own authorisation procedures. Cannabis consultancy firm, Canna Consultants, is a “blow” for businesses in Northern Ireland.
Amazon angst over alcohol sales
In more bad news for Northern Ireland – this week, the e-commerce giant Amazon said that once the grace period ends on the 1st April (the second phase of the border operating model) , they could remove some of their products for Northern Ireland’s customers as they are being guided by EU’s Prohibitions and Restrictions (P&R) Customs list. After 1st April, all deliveries of products of animal origin, sent from GB to NI will require an Export Health Certificate which must be signed off by a veterinarian which seems to be off-putting to businesses shipping products that fall into these categories.
Amazon has already halted the sale of wines, beers and spirits to its Northern Ireland customers and other companies such as John Lewis, Dunelm and TK Maxx have paused all deliveries to the country for the time being.
A Disunited Kingdom?
We’re back again, in Northern Ireland! The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has recently ‘growing discontent amongst the Unionist community of the country, the group supporting Northern Ireland remaining a part of the UK, due to the disruption linked to the new Irish Sea Border.
Proportionally, more people voted to remain within the Union in Northern Ireland than the final result, and unfortunately, they are now facing the full effects of leaving the trade bloc. In the meantime, UK MPs have not acknowledged that Brexit is a factor in the disruption in the Northern Ireland supermarkets and have rather blamed the coronavirus pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, in the results of a poll published his week, it was revealed that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland wanted a referendum, within the next five years, to decide its future. 51% of people want a referendum to decide whether the North would reunite with the Republic of Ireland which is in a similar vein to Scotland pushing for ‘Indyref 2’. The Times that the British identity that once bound the country together is ‘disintegrating’ leaving the future of the UK uncertain – and potentially without two of its nations….
A look to the future…
One month into 2021 and there have been very few optimistic stories related to the new freedom the UK has gained from Brexit. PM Boris Johnson’s promises of control and sovereignty post Brexit seemed to have fallen short so far, and there is a lot of work to do to regain the trust of many British people. Watch this space…