Daniel Lambert is a wine importer who is more than a little pissed off at the new bureaucracy surrounding the importation of wine from the European Union post-Brexit. OK, fair enough, and he’s not lying about what that bureaucracy is.
It’s the import of the story overall that becomes the lie. For we are now subject to all the fuss, in importing from the EU, that has always been true of imports from not the EU. That is, this is not a story about how appalling the post-Brexit bureaucracy is. This is a story about how appalling the pre-Brexit bureaucracy imposed by the EU was.
For we’ve not actually changed the system as yet. Imports from the EU now meet the same paperwork requirements as all non-EU imports used to do. This is all, thus, evidence of how much poorer the EU used to make us:
Daniel Lambert who imports up to 2m bottles of wine a year for 300 retailers including supermarkets, said he is unable to import wine from the EU because of the complex and unworkable HM Revenue and Customs system, which requires companies to work out one of 10,000 different combinations to describe the product they want to import.
“We were a pretty good little business, we were doing quite well, until Brexit came along,” he said.
“While we knew Brexit would be a car crash we did not know it was going to be a multiple pile-up in the fog with fatalities,” he tweeted in a thread over the weekend that has resonated with thousands on Twitter.
That thread is here:
Over the past 15 days I have not only been running my company as normal but I have been faced with largest threat to its future since it began in 1992. This is #Brexit & here is my thread on just how bad things are getting. 1/26
— Daniel Lambert (Wines). 🇪🇺🇫🇷🏴🍇🥂 (@DanielLambert29) January 16, 2021
It’s not a happy story about that paperwork, that’s true.
But it is necessary to grasp this story properly. The system he’s got to use now was the system that everyone had to use for non-EU imports last year and the decades before that. All the complaints about tariffs, paperwork, codes, computer systems, were the blocks that the EU system put in place against non-EU imports for all those decades.
He’s entirely right, of course he is, that the benefit to us of trade is the imports we get to consume. He might be right that this bureaucracy is going to mean wine going up by £1 a bottle for EU sourced imports. But if he is right then that means that non-EU wines have been £1 a bottle more than they should have been before now – to cover those costs of this paperwork.
And think on that larger question for a moment. The imports are the benefits. So, within the EU we have easy access to the imports from 450 million people. But these significant barriers to the imports derived from 6,500 million people. Outside the EU we have the opportunity to reduce our barriers to imports from all 6,950 million of them.
Which is going to benefit us more? Quite, it’s unilateral free trade, isn’t it?
That is, it’s not that post-Brexit paperwork has shown us the benefits of EU membership it’s that it’s shown us the costs. Bourdeaux now faces the same barriers as Malbec. The solution is to lower the barriers to both, right?