LONDON — Loaded with tons of live crab, lobster and prawns, the trucks headed south from the Scottish town of Oban needed to reach their destination in Spain within 72 hours to be sure the cargo would survive the trip.
But with Britain operating new post-Brexit trading rules, a journey that used to be routine is now a high-stakes gamble for the exporter Paul Knight, managing director of PDK Shellfish.
“It is like roulette,” said Mr. Knight, as he waved off two giant trucks, adding that though he spent tens of thousands of pounds on Brexit preparations he remained terrified that holdups in French ports could cause a large part of his shipment to perish.
“We are as Brexit-ready as we can be and we are still staring failure in the face,” he said, adding that the strain of navigating the new, trading arrangements had pushed him close to the breaking point. “I am exhausted, the pressure is so intense — it is like is like being on a knife edge,” Mr. Knight added.
Since Britain completed the final stage of Brexit on Jan. 1 and left the European Union’s single market and customs union, the world has changed for British exporters to the continent and not in a good way.
Despite a trade deal, struck by Britain and the European Union on Christmas Eve, promises once made by Brexit campaigners that leaving the bloc would free companies from needless bureaucracy now sound like a macabre joke. Consignments that previously moved with minimal fuss now need voluminous paperwork including customs declarations and, for food products, health certificates.
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