On 23 June 2016, Geoffrey Betts, the managing director of a small office supplies business in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, had high hopes for his firm, and the British economy, when he voted for Brexit.
“I thought we would be like … ‘here we go, here we go. We are going to become the most competitive country in Europe and we are going to be encouraging business.’ Now I think: ‘What have we done?’”
His firm, Stewart Superior, has survived, but not without major restructuring and huge efforts to get around obstacles that Brexit has put in the way of the export side of the business.
In late 2020 Betts decided there was no option but to set up a depot inside the EU single market – in the Netherlands – at considerable expense, to avoid costly delays in transit, mountains of Brexit-related paperwork at the border, and VAT issues when sending goods to customers on the continent.
The switch means that, 18 months on, he has retained a decent slice of trade with customers inside the EU. But because his goods are now distributed from the Dutch depot, tax revenues which would have gone to the UK exchequer now go to the Dutch government instead. Jobs have been created in Holland, not here. Goods that would have been transported from the UK – and created work and employment here – are instead sent direct from the Netherlands to EU destinations, including Ireland.
Last year, with Covid adding to its problems, Stewart Superior lost money for the first time in 20 years.
Betts is “very disappointed” with the UK government. “We are not shipping anything like the amount we were. As a country, we were supposed to be out there trading with the world and yet nothing has happened except we have got a load more paperwork and we have lost lots of our business. It is completely bonkers.” [Continue reading…]