Post-Brexit trade: If you dont speak French, youre stuffed

More than a month after the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU came into force, complaints from British importers and exporters continue to mount.

Rules of origin for products that are imported into the UK, then exported to the EU are causing difficulty for some firms.

Others are caught up in the complexity of VAT issues, while the time and trouble taken to get merchandise through customs remains a hassle.

Small wonder, then, that according to a survey by the Road Haulage Association, Brexit-related problems caused the volume of exports passing through British ports to the EU to fall very sharply last month compared with a year ago.

A government spokesperson admitted that some businesses are “facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship” and promised to provide them with the necessary support “to trade effectively with Europe”.

“That’s why we are operating export helplines, running webinars with experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers,” the spokesperson said.

The BBC spoke to three of the firms affected to learn more about the particular challenges they are facing.

“We have to take a hit and blindly support our customers,” says Nisha Menon, whose company, Nikasu Foods, specialises in Indian snacks and meals.

It’s a family-run firm, started by her father 25 years ago. She took over the UK and European side of the business 12 years ago.

Her headaches began when the company that distributes her products in Greece complained about having to pay extra to receive its latest consignment of Jack & Chill jackfruit products.

These are vegan-friendly meals, including spicy burgers and biryanis, that are gaining popularity in the Greek market.

But like all the firm’s foodstuffs, they are manufactured at its two factories in India – and that’s where the problem lies.

Naturally, Nisha had to pay duty on the goods when they arrived in the UK. In the past, that would have been it, but now there is an additional tariff barrier.

“Apparently because the product is not made in the UK, they now have to pay customs duty when they import it into Greece,” Nisha says.

“They said, ‘We cannot increase the price, so you have to support us with that.'”

One solution would be to send the products directly from India to Greece, but because they are shipped in big containers, that would involve a minimum order of 10 tonnes, which is too much for the distributor to handle.

“I’m very frustrated,” says Nisha, who is now considering dropping the EU market altogether.

“I’ve been told I don’t have to pay duty again, but the Greek customs don’t agree.”

“Bikers are notoriously fussy about getting the right colour paint match for their bikes,” says Phil Allen, managing director of RS Bike Paint.

And if you’re a motorcyclist who wants to be sure of getting the right paint job to complete a repair, Phil has the solution.

His company has 45,000 records of different paint shades covering 160 different bike brands. It’s the only comprehensive database of its kind.

“It’s a niche market that’s about an inch wide, but a mile deep,” he says. “Nobody else does what we do.”

However, it turns out there is a limit to how far his customers are prepared to go.

“When we export to the EU, customers are paying VAT not only at the point of purchase – our online shop – but are being asked to pay again to release their products from customs in their own country, together with an admin fee,” Phil says.

“This, of course, prices us out of the market, especially now that our courier has added a £4.50 ‘cross-border’ surcharge for every packet we send.”

The effects are already being felt. One Frenchman placed an order worth €54 – that’s €40 worth of paint. plus a €14 shipping charge. But when he was asked to pay another €39 in charges, he declined.

“Now that the goods are in France, we can either pay the carrier to bring them back to us or have the product destroyed. It’s cheaper for them to be destroyed.”

Phil’s website asks EU customers to agree to pay any duties, but he can’t tell them in advance what those will be, because different countries are applying the rules differently and inconsistently.

“One-third of everything we manufacture goes straight to the EU,” he says. “There’s a limit to how much we can write off.”

“If you don’t speak French, you’re stuffed,” says Nicolas Hanson, managing director of high-end pasta-making firm La Tua Pasta. Fortunately he does, having dual British and French citizenship.

That has allowed him to carry on sending truffle ravioli and other delicacies to top retailers on the other side of the Channel, having forged contacts that have safeguarded his supply route in the face of increasing bureaucracy.

That trade has become all the more valuable to him as demand from posh UK restaurants has withered during the pandemic.

But since 1 January, new demands for paperwork have saddled him with an extra £50,000 to £75,000 in costs.

These include the need to obtain a public health certificate for his products and inspections from two sets of vets, one in the UK and one in France, for every shipment he sends.

These Product of Animal Origin rules apply not just to meat, but to all foodstuffs that contain 50% or more processed dairy product, eggs or milk.

“It’s not uncommon for the truck driver to call me at 8pm on a Saturday night from Calais,” he says.

“There are never enough vets, so we can wait for four hours. Every hour we wait costs £50. Then the truck driver has worked his shift and needs eight hours’ rest time.”

At every step of the way, there are officials who need to be paid. “What’s going on is highway robbery. Everyone has got their snout in the trough.”

Nicolas says his customers will have to pay more because of the extra costs: “I will absorb some, they will absorb some and we will have to live with it.

“But frankly, it’s scandalous that the governments are allowing this to happen. We’re just a food manufacturer trying to make a living.”

I saved £5,000 by charging my electric car for free

Elinor Chalmers knew that she would have to rely on public charging points when she bought her electric car.

The 36-year-old was living in a second floor flat in Dundee and could not plug in at home where it is usually cheaper.

She had no idea that the public charging points in her area were free to use.

“It was a pleasant surprise”, says Elinor who got her Nissan Leaf because she was concerned about the impact of fossil-fuelled cars.

“The majority of the chargers across Scotland were free and I think in those first three years, I saved about £5,000 equivalent of what I would have been paying in diesel”.

The devices which she relied upon are no longer free for everyone to use, but Radio 4’s You & Yours has found that free charging is patchy but still widespread.

Figures the programme obtained from the electric vehicle (EV) charging website, Zap Map, show that of the 21,267 public charging points in the UK, more than one in five of them (4,928) are currently free to use.

“There are around a thousand charge points which you can use for free at supermarkets’, says Zap Map’s co-founder, Melanie Shufflebotham. ‘There are thousands of [free] chargers at different locations such as attractions, zoos, retail parks, garden centres – all sorts of different places”.

Roger Munford made the most of free charging on a road trip from his home in Southampton to Poland and back in 2018. He says he only spent £19 on electricity to power his electric car for the whole journey.

Zap Map says the majority of free charging devices in the UK are 7kw ‘fast’ chargers (which would typically add less than 30 miles of range to an EV in an hour) but there are also 442 ‘rapid’ chargers (which can add over 150 miles of range in an hour).

These 50kw ‘rapid’ chargers tend to be focussed in different regions, according to Zap Map’s Melanie Shufflebotham, who says while they are free for now, they “probably won’t be” in future.

West Yorkshire is a case in point. There, the energy company Engie, has a network of 63 rapid charging points which are dotted around the Leeds and Bradford area and are currently free to use.

Engie is paying for the “100% renewable electricity” which those devices deliver in order to help stimulate take-up of electric vehicles in the region but it says that free charging will end on 29 October 2021.

In Scotland, around 60% of public charging devices (so over 1,300 of them) are free to use, although motorists do have to pay an annual access fee of £20 to the operators, Chargeplace Scotland.

As in other parts of the UK, some local councils are paying for the electricity.

So how do they justify spending taxpayers’ money on that, particularly when many people feel unable to go electric because of the relatively high purchase price of an EV?

“Local authorities are very keen to engage with the climate change agenda and encourage the take-up of electric vehicles’, says Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesperson. ‘It’s also about improving air quality”.

He thinks that fewer councils will fund the perk as EV sales grow.

Some councils have moved away from it already, such as in Dundee where Elinor Chalmers used to live. The city council has since restricted free charging to certain residents, paid for through a Scottish government air quality improvement fund.

“I personally didn’t choose to drive an EV just because it was free to charge,” says Elinor, “at the end of the day the hosts of some of the chargers do need to at least cover their costs so it is realistic to be paying”.

Preston electric scooter crash death murder charge

A man has been charged with murdering an electric scooter rider who died in a crash with a van.

Ben Smith, 20, died shortly after the collision in Bamber Bridge, Preston, at about 13:00 GMT on Thursday.

Samuel Bretherton, 25, of Mellor Road, Leyland is due to appear at Preston Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

Mr Smith, of Walton-le-Dale, was “a much loved son, brother, father, partner, grandson and friend to many,” his family said.

“He has been taken from all of us in such tragic circumstances,” they added.

Police are continuing to appeal for witnesses.

Det Ch Insp Zoe Russo said: “I am asking anyone who saw what happened but hasn’t yet made contact to speak to us.”

A second man who was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage in connection with a wing mirror on the van being damaged has been released under investigation.

Dog thefts: Pet owners heartbreak as seven pups stolen

Genna George hoped to sell seven border collie puppies for £950 each – but three weeks ago, they were stolen.

Demand for dogs has risen in lockdown and the value of pups like Ms George’s has increased by £700 inside a year.

Police have warned of a spike of animal thefts and the Dog Lost charity said the number of stolen dogs in the UK has nearly tripled in the past 12 months.

Now one Welsh police force has taken the step to create a task force after 80 stolen dogs were rescued last month.

Dyfed-Powys Police found more than 80 dogs – said to be worth tens of thousands of pounds – thought to have been stolen during raids in Carmarthenshire and Briton Ferry in Neath Port Talbot.

Four arrests have been made and 28 have been returned to their owners, with the people bailed as officers investigate.

Police are also investigating a number of dog thefts, as well as an incident on the coastal path at Llanelli, where two men threatened an owner with a knife and tried to take his pet “by force”.

Ms George described border collie Catrin as her “best friend”, who had first litter of four puppies in January 2020, which were given to family and friends.

Catrin had seven more in February this year – but these were taken from the kennel they were in with their mother.

“I blame myself… in the back of my mind, I thought I could have done more to protect them,” said Ms George from Ceredigion.

“We feel pretty safe in Cardigan, you don’t expect it to happen.”

The value of puppies has sky-rocketed, partly driven by people wanting to buy a pet during lockdown.

The Kennel Club is also calling for tougher penalties to deter thefts – with a maximum jail term currently seven years.

Dyfed-Powys Police has now appointed a chief inspector to head the task force and collect information after a number of incidents in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

Briton Ferry is in the South Wales Police force area and its officers have also warned owners to be vigilant.

“We do take reports of stolen dogs very seriously and recognise the impact this can have on the victim and the dog itself,” Ch Insp Nia Hughes said.

“While there is a lot of concern in the community it is important to stress the number of thefts reported to us in our force area is still relatively low.

“It is essential people report any thefts of dogs to us as soon as possible and provide as much detail as they can.”

She said she did not want to “overly alarm” dog owners, adding: “We do not want to overly alarm dog owners but it is important that particularly those who are breeding puppies, do take some basic crime prevention measures to protect their pets.

“We also urge people who are buying a dog or puppy to follow advice and make sure they are not buying a stolen animal.”

One pet that “dognappers” did not manage to take, though, was 20-week-old collie Rose, with pub landlord and former amateur boxer James Cosens fighting them off.

Dyfed-Powys Police task force is investigating after the two attackers threatened to stab him when he would not hand over his pet on the Millennium Coastal Path near Llanelli earlier this week.

The Home Office warns that pet theft is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

“Losing a much loved family pet can cause great distress and it’s a sad fact that criminals will seek to profit by this vile crime,” said Policing Minister Kit Malthouse.

Cumbria couple arrested over adoption babys death

A couple have been arrested following the death of a baby boy they were set to adopt.

The child was under the care of Cumbria County Council but was living with the couple before his adoption was formally confirmed.

The authority called it a “deeply distressing case” and has recommended an independent safeguarding review is carried out.

It declined to comment further while the police investigation continues.

It is understood the North West Ambulance Service was called on 6 January and the child was taken to Furness General Hospital in Barrow before being transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

He died the next day.

A final adoption order had not yet been granted by the courts, however it is a requirement of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 that a child lives with their adoptive parents for a period before an application for an adoption order can be made.

John Readman, executive director of people at the council, said: “This is a deeply distressing case and our thoughts are with the little boy’s family.

“We can confirm that he was looked after by the local authority and at the time of his death was placed with adoptive parents.

“The county council, as part of the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership, has recommended that a full independent safeguarding review is carried out.

“A police investigation is also ongoing, and so we are unable to make any further comment at this stage.”

My Mum Tracy Beaker: Tracy and Justine make nostalgic return to TV

Tracy Beaker has returned to screens as an adult, reigniting her feud with her nemesis Justine Littlewood.

My Mum Tracy Beaker sees Dani Harmer return, 19 years after she first played the fiery role created by children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

In the new three-part CBBC series, which began on Friday, Tracy has a 10-year-old daughter called Jess and comes up against her childhood enemy Justine.

Harmer said fans would be pleased with the “great” mother Beaker has become.

“They’re very different – Jess is quiet, she’s really good at school, she loves reading, whereas Tracy obviously wasn’t any one of those things,” said the actress, now 32.

The original book, The Story of Tracy Beaker, published in 1991, sold more than a million copies and launched a string of stories that followed Tracy’s life in foster care and made Dame Jacqueline a household name.

Told through a series of diary entries by the title character as she forever waited for her mum to visit, they introduced young audiences to the tensions of life as a child in a foster home (or, as Beaker called it, the “dumping ground”).

The books inspired the popular CBBC show, beginning with the original adaptation in 2002. Harmer last played Beaker in three series of Tracy Beaker Returns, which ran from 2010 to 2012.

My Mum Tracy Beaker, adapted from Dame Jacqueline’s 2018 sequel, now finds the title character in her thirties, with Jess, played by Emma Maggie Davies.

Their lives are drastically changed following the arrival of Tracy’s new boyfriend Sean Godfrey, played by Jordan Duvigneau.

The series also features a host of familiar characters, including Montanna Thompson returning as Justine to revive her foster care rivalry with Beaker.

Lisa Coleman is again cast as her step mother Camilla ‘Cam’ Lawson, alongside Bridgerton star Ruth Gemmell as Tracy’s birth mother Carly Beaker.

A 30-second teaser posted on social media by Harmer on Tuesday – showing Tracy coming face-to-face with her old foe – went viral.

And the first episode was hotly anticipated among fans of the original series, many of whom are now much older than the target audience for CBBC.

It was warmly received, with the Evening Standard saying the reboot was cleverly “calibrated to win over kids and nostalgic adults alike”.

“The original CBBC show dealt with weighty issues with a light touch, and never swamped its young viewers… just like Wilson’s books,” wrote the paper’s critic Kate Rosseinsky in her four-star review.

“Writer Emma Reeves, who has worked on episodes of every Beaker series, has taken a similar approach with this adaptation. The result is a deeply compassionate drama that’s uplifting, funny and never saccharine. It handles its heartbreaking moments as confidently as its heartwarming ones.”

In the Radio Times, Lauren Morris wrote that Tracy and Justine had given viewers another taste of their “entertaining rivalry and memorable tiffs”.

She wrote: “My Mum Tracy Beaker takes their bitter feud to all new satisfying heights…

“While no-one would have thought Tracy Beaker and Justine Littlewood’s reunion would be a cultural event we’d get out of this year, it’s arguably the TV moment we needed during the pandemic.”

Hunting webinar: Man from Sherborne charged

A man has been charged with a Hunting Act offence in relation to the content of a webinar.

Mark Hankinson, of Sherborne, Dorset, is accused of intentionally encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act 2004.

Devon and Cornwall Police, which is leading the investigation on behalf of all UK forces, said the alleged offence happened on 11 August, 2020.

Mr Hankinson, 60, is due to appear at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on 4 March.

Police said they launched an investigation after the content of webinars held on 11 and 13 August on the theme of hunting was brought to their attention .

Heathrow: Man arrested on plane over abduction of girl, 4

A man has been arrested on suspicion of child abduction after police stopped a plane flying to Romania.

Nottinghamshire Police said they tracked down a man to Heathrow Airport after receiving a report that a four-year-old girl had been taken.

They received a call at 16:57 GMT Thursday, and the flight to Bucharest was due to take off at 18:00.

The 32-year-old is known to the girl, who has been reunited with her mother, a spokesman said.

Det Sgt Ruth Walker said it was “a hugely complex and challenging case”, and thanked officers from the Metropolitan Police for their assistance.

“The plane was taxiing ready for take-off, but we were able to get there just in time before it took flight,” she said.

“[It] then returned to the terminal and the man was arrested.

“If it wasn’t for the swift coordinated multi-agency response there may have been a very different outcome.”

Gregory Campbell: DUP MP unable to identify racism

A meeting between DUP MP Gregory Campbell and a number of ethnic minority organisations has ended, with one saying he is “unable to acknowledge or identify racism”.

The groups met with the East Londonderry MP after his comments about the number of black people on an edition of Songs of Praise.

He said the programme was “the BBC at its BLM (Black Lives Matter) worst”.

Mr Campbell later said he would not withdraw or apologise for the remarks.

He said his comments about the programme’s Gospel Singer of the Year – in which the five semi-finalists, judges and presenter were all of a black ethnicity – referred to a lack of diversity and added that he was opposed to racism “in all its forms”.

On Friday, Mr Campbell met with representatives from United Against Racism, the Belfast Multicultural Association, Belfast Islamic Centre, Ethnic Minority Sports Organisation NI (EMSONI), IassistNI and the North West Migrants Forum.

Lillian Seenoi-Barr, from the North West Migrants Forum, said they had gone “into the meeting with no expectations and we were not disappointed”.

“We never expected him to apologise but we expected him to understand the damage his comments caused and we feel that he has – but he doesn’t comprehend why.

“After the two-hour meeting we had with him, we are convinced that Mr Campbell is unable to acknowledge or identify racism; and the fact that, far from just sticks and stones, racism can take a real and lasting toll on individual lives and communities.”

The DUP has been contacted for a response.

Ms Seenoi-Barr added that the MP had “acknowledged the importance of dialogue” and also “agreed to meet with groups again on a one-to-one basis to talk about racism”.

The DUP MP made his comments in a Facebook post on 31 January.

In the post, the East Londonderry MP wrote: “There were five singers, all of them black. There were three judges all of them black and one presenter who was incidentally, yes black.

“The singers were all very good but can you imagine an all white line up with an all white jury and presented by a white person? No I can’t either,” he said, adding that it was “the BBC at its BLM (Black Lives Matter) worst”.

A number of anti-racism and ethnic minority organisations in Northern Ireland called on Mr Campbell to apologise and withdraw the remarks, while Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald reported the comments to the standards commissioner at the House of Commons.

On Monday, Mr Campbell said he was opposed to racism “in all its forms” and that his comments were “intended to increase multi-cultural diversity, not single identity approach which is what that edition had”.

“There wasn’t a single white person involved in any way on screen,” he said.

“If there wasn’t a single black person, the same principle would apply.

“In most editions there is a diversity. There wasn’t on this occasion. Is someone going to try and dispute what the edition had? It didn’t have diversity.”

David Grant, one of the judges in the Gospel Singer of the Year competition, said Mr Campbell’s view was “uninformed” and that he would say “his opinion’s bigoted, unless he has a history of equally complaining that there weren’t any black people on a programme”.

Asked about Mr Campbell’s post in the NI Assembly, DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was “not a sentiment” she identified with and insisted her party was “totally and absolutely committed” to racial equality.

Fishmongers Hall: MI5 had intelligence suggesting Usman Khan had been plotting

MI5 had intelligence suggesting the Fishmongers’ Hall killer might have been planning an attack before he was released from jail, a court has heard.

Usman Khan, 28, fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones at a prisoner rehabilitation event in November 2019.

He injured two others before he was shot dead by police on London Bridge.

A pre-inquest hearing was told Khan was deemed a “high-risk category A prisoner” before his release.

He had been jailed in 2012 over a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange.

On Friday, coroner Mark Lucraft QC heard arguments from the victims’ families that individual MI5 officers should give evidence, rather than a single high-ranking officer, known as Witness A.

Nick Armstrong, for the Merritt family, said: “We do not want an overarching narrative, we want the facts, the detailed facts.”

He added: “This is about the level of risk Mr Khan represented and the level of unknowns about the risk, and the decisions that were taken, despite those unknowns, to let him go to Fishmongers’ Hall.

“The fact he was in a high-risk category A shortly before release is significant.

“He spent much of his detention in special units and went straight out into the community without proper scrutiny.

“It would not have taken much in the way of information-sharing or concern to have changed the outcome of this.”

Speaking by video-link at the Old Bailey, Mr Armstrong went on: “MI5 had intelligence before release he was planning a post-release attack.

“That is a matter of obviously great significance.”

There was evidence Khan had been radicalising other inmates and encouraging violence, the court heard.

The lawyer added that Khan had been suspected of “false compliance” with with de-radicalisation courses and licence conditions, and was considering relocating to Pakistan and giving up his UK nationality.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the coroner, confirmed that police and probation service officers would give evidence on the decision-making in Khan’s case.

If there was information not disclosed to decision-makers then Witness A could talk about that, he said.

Mr Hough went on: “Decision-makers can be asked what they would have done if that [intelligence] was brought to their attention.

“MI5 had intelligence shortly before his release he might return to his old ways on the outside, ways of terrorist offending.”

Mr Lucraft set a further pre-inquest hearing for 25 March.

The full inquest into the deaths of Mr Merritt, 25, and Ms Jones, 23, is expected to take place in April. Khan’s inquest will follow theirs.

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