Lancashire businesses reeling as Government minister says £330m Brexit import checks were not a surprise

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New border control checks on plant and animal imports from the UK began this week, requiring health certificates for some plant and animal products which could further increase business costs.

Dame Andrea Leadsom MP said in an interview with Sky News recently that the new checks and associated costs was no surprise to businesses whom, the Health Secretary said, 'are used to the cost of doing business.'

As of now, all plant and animal products coming into the UK from the EU will be classified into three groups, high, medium and low risk.

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Whilst currently, medium and high-risk products will need health certificates, with meat requiring veterinarian signatures to declare it safe, the major change will come at the end of April, when medium and high-risk items will require physical checks at the border.

The government have estimated that additional costs on flowers and meats like bacon and sausages will cost businesses around £330 million overall, and could lead to price increases of around 0.2% over three years, though these figures will increase if other produce, such as fruit and vegetables, become subject to checks as well.

Michael, who would rather not provide his last name, is a co-owner of Smashed in Preston, as well as All Hopes No Promises, which operates in both Preston and Lancaster. He said that Dame Leadsom’s comments were dismissive, and that she is out of touch.

“I understand running a business, I know there are costs, but it’s cost after cost after cost at the minute,” said Michael. “Businesses didn’t expect to be in this position; 30,00 businesses closed last year and it will be more than that next year if things don’t improve.”

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The number of companies going bust in England and Wales hit a 30-year high in 2023, with more than 25,000 companies going bust according to government figures. Michael puts much of this down to inflation, but also says that businesses aren’t getting the help that they need.

“Running a business now has become like walking on a tightrope, it's so unsteady,” he said. “It’s not just the independent businesses, everyone is feeling it. Of our meat, only our sausages get imported, but there are a lot of business that import all their meat and it’s just unfair again.”

The extra charges on meat are likely to have a substantial impact on restaurant and food trade in upcoming months, but florists are already facing new costs, with flowers and plants in the medium and high-risk categories.

Margaret Mason is 87, but still runs her florist - aptly named Margaret Mason Florists - with the energy of a 21 year old. She said that the challenge for her industry was finding new ways to adapt.

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“These new rules are bound to make a difference, but I’ve learnt in the 62 years that I’ve been in business that you can’t just jump in, you’ve got to sit back and think about what you’re going to do,” she said. “You’ve got to diversify into lots of other things and you cut according to your cloth.

“We have to have enough sense to keep the job going until things get better. Fresh flowers will always be top priority for us, and we’ve always had battles along the way - for instance, we didn’t have supermarkets (selling flowers) or anything like that - but we have to have a way of stepping up to make sure that what we do sell is top quality and suits our customers.”

“I can tell you that there is no way that I am giving up fresh flowers.”

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