When people spoke of ‘post-Brexit Britain’ they weren’t really thinking of the postal services themselves. But post-Brexit postal services have their own challenges.
If you want to see a microcosm of the many issues surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the EU, you only have to look at a relatively short letter from David McRedmond, CEO of An Post financial times.
The letter explains how the British Post Office “refused” to implement the necessary systems to comply with the new EU customs rules. This has resulted in thousands of items being sent back to the UK from Ireland every day because the packages do not conform to the required export procedures.
Back in September, Mr McRedmond told me in a radio interview that 85 per cent of parcels arriving from the UK from major retailers had all the correct dates.
Additional fees are charged by An Post for Irish customs and we all end up paying more to shop in the UK but the system more or less worked. He said in September there was a real problem for small independent retailers.
Mr McRedmond says the UK Post Office is refusing to put in place the right systems and that this problem will only get worse as the necessary EU rules for all countries in the European Union come into force from January.
All packages of this type going from the UK to an EU country will face the same disadvantages and obstacles.
There are a number of questions including who in the UK should pay for Brexit? Large trading companies have the budget to set up the kind of systems to smooth out these issues. Small retailers in the UK don’t do this.
They would need the British Post to set up systems and information campaigns. Trade from the UK to Ireland has already fallen 52 per cent in a year as fewer Irish people buy from UK sites and there is greater acceptance that buying from the UK is either problematic, expensive or sometimes both.
The UK Post Office is the state-owned company that owns and operates the post office network. The private Royal Mail delivers the letters and parcels.
Trade from the UK to Ireland has already fallen by 52 per cent in a year
A post office has spent a lot of money to implement the necessary new systems because it is required by EU regulations. In the UK, such rules no longer apply, so who should foot the bill?
The same principle applies to many other aspects of the Brexit debacle. The UK pushed ahead with Brexit but never prepared for it. Smaller companies in half-forgotten sectors are already bearing the heavy costs of Brexit, from a lack of suitable, low-cost labor to the loss of export markets in EU countries.
This problem is likely to get worse once the exemptions introduced by the UK government or agreed with the EU expire.
The Brexit backtrack isn’t quite in full swing yet, but it’s coming. Nut and bolt problems like small retailers selling goods to EU countries would always happen. It just took a while for the penny to drop.
On the postal issue, Mr McRedmond says the UK government should insist immediately that Post Office Ltd put in place the necessary export procedures in the UK which would keep international trade going and support UK businesses and consumers.
He’s right, of course, but the political will to intervene isn’t there yet. The British Post Office could legitimately ask its government for additional funding to do so.
Mr McRedmond said the “systems and process implementation is a bit complex but certainly a price worth paying if it allows Britain to trade with Europe”.
The Irish Post CEO is clearly frustrated by the whole thing. Mark it in the financial times will not do much for relations between An Post and the UK Post Office. He obviously felt it was the last straw.
It is extremely difficult to trace back to Brexit
His frustrations seem genuine. When the number of parcels being returned to the UK is ‘thousands of items a day’ you can only imagine the time it takes An Post and at what cost.
It must be quite tense as so many people in Ireland are on the phone or going online to find out why their purchase hasn’t arrived.
The problem is a microcosm of Brexit itself: the added cost of EU-UK trade, the minutiae of the trade processes that create problems, the lack of political will to resolve the issue to finally end trade with the EU and the chickens coming home to settle down while the true cost of Brexit rears its head above the fog of Covid populism, rioting and distractions.
It is extremely difficult to trace back to Brexit. The first thing that needs to happen in Britain is for the government to stop making things worse. The arrival of Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street appears to have started this process.
The UK government is finally getting down to real negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Sunak has eliminated the position of Minister for Brexit Opportunities previously held by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
He decided to hire the civil service ‘delivery unit’ dedicated to repealing or removing dozens of EU laws from the UK Code.
But naïve ideas in Ireland of an impending humiliating UK return to the EU in the future are beside the point.
Mr. Sunak will not give up the post-Brexit right to regulatory divergence.
Even if the UK did decide to embark on a Swiss-style relationship with the EU in a few years, there are no guarantees that the EU would grant them that, even if they paid billions of pounds a year for the opportunity.
Theresa May’s backstop Brexit was criticized at the time by Boris Johnson for saying it kept the UK “in the orbit of the EU”.
Yet exactly what it needs to do when it comes to trade is return to EU orbit.
In politics, ideas often don’t bring about as much change as accusations. Only when the allegations really kick in will we see a greater appetite to review the future direction of the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Whatever happens, it will probably take seven to ten years to really take effect. The task will likely fall to Keir Starmer as the Conservatives will be nudged after the next election anyway.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/an-post-parcel-row-shows-how-uk-drove-brexit-but-never-prepared-for-it-42220169.html A series of postal parcels show how Britain pushed for Brexit but never prepared for it