Brexit red tape is costing Fenland firm
A businessman who says Brexit is destroying his business thanks to red tape has challenged the Prime Minister to try filling in the necessary customs forms.
Stephen Wigginton, who with his wife Tina runs Wisbech St Mary-based S and T Poultry, imports live chicks and hatching eggs from France and may have voted for Brexit, but he says it has created a nightmare for his business.
Paperwork required for imports has meant he has been forced to cancel all work since his last run to France in December and it is costing him thousands of pounds in lost orders at what he says should be a boom time.
“Normally we would be getting stock in ready for Easter, which is when demand for chickens for people to have in their gardens for fresh eggs is at its highest, but we have had to cancel all our shipments,” said Mr Wigginton.
Customs paperwork needed since Brexit on December 31 requires him to fill in between 20 and 30 forms and the French have added to the Wiggintons’ woes by refusing to recognise the paperwork associated with the vehicles used to bring the chicks and eggs across the Channel.
“It is absolutely ridiculous,” said Mr Wigginton,adding: “The government is blaming small businesses for not completing the paperwork correctly, but I would challenge Boris Johnson to do it.
“In fact I’m willing to take the forms to him at Number 10 so he can have a go in front of TV cameras, so we can see how he gets on.
“The government’s advice is to find an agent to complete the necessary paperwork on your behalf, but we have not managed to find one willing to take us on. The problem is we only have two or three imports a month, the agents want 300, either that or they are simply swamped and are not taking on on any more clients.
“The whole system is geared up to large companies and what makes it even more ludicrous is that our imports are tariff free, so we are filling in loads of paperwork for nothing. It is bureaucracy gone mad and the government needs to sort it out.”
On top of everything else the Wiggintons have been told they need to fork out £2,500 for the necessary computer hardware to use for the form filling, on top of that they would need to pay £150 for training, £1,800 a year subscription and pay £130 a month for a three digit code to go on the import forms - and it is going to take months before it can be installed.
Mr Wigginton said: “This is a massive problem for small businesses that don’t have huge turnovers and it needs to be sorted out as it is having a massive impact, not just on our business, but on thousands of others, and of course there is a knock on affect to the firms we supply as we have not been able to provide the goods they need.
“We supply 50 other companies and we are letting them down, but there is nothing we can do.
“We have approached MP Stephen Barclay, and his office just gave us a list of agents who either never replied to our phone calls, or refused to take us on - so that was no use.”
A spokesman for Mr Barclay’s office said they had tried to help Mr Wiggington and the advice remains the same - to try to find an agent.