I once sold cheese to Europe. Brexit took my business to the brink of destruction | Simon Spurrell
When I voted to remain as a part of the EU it was for practical rather than political reasons. As the founder of a cheesemaking business, my experience of exporting outside the EU had taught me that that leaving the single market would bring my business increased costs and countless problems with bureaucracy.
The news of the referendum result came as a shock, but I took solace in the subsequent promises of a “seamless transition”. Perhaps if we had remained in the single market, the transition really would have been seamless. I resolved to make the best of a bad situation. I had the funds and a plan to build a new fulfilment warehouse for my Cheshire Cheese Company brand. We optimistically created a multilingual version of our website for e-commerce sales and increased our marketing, securing some wholesale distribution in the EU.
The appointment of Boris Johnson in 2019 as prime minister and the subsequent landslide election at the end of that year jettisoned any chance of a sensible democratic outcome for a Brexit deal. Brexit became about tax evasion for those set to lose most from EU transparency regulations. The aim of a hard Brexit was to remove all authority and leverage the EU might retain – including the UK’s membership of the single market. The government shows no sign of acknowledging the difficulties this has caused for small business owners; in the recent budget, there was barely a mention of Brexit at all.
The disastrous turning point for meat and dairy producers came in October 2020, when Johnson used the whip and his majority to force an amendment to the agriculture bill. Food standards protections put into the agriculture bill by the House of Lords were voted down. Johnson needed to be able to reduce food standards to accommodate an expected US trade deal with a second-term Donald Trump. Until this point, there was an expectation that the UK would align its food standards with the EU and provide the UK’s producers with the smooth…