That the Brexit is looming - in whatever form – is certain. The big question now is whether a transition period will come first. "My feeling is that it will come," says director Gert Mulder of GroentenFruit Huis. "This is such a complex issue that no one can afford to be faced with Brexit in March of next year already, because that would lead to major consequences such as empty stores in the United Kingdom and huge problems at the borders."
"As an industry organization, we try to gather as much information as possible, whether it comes from Brussels, the UK or from our members, so we try to put this tricky puzzle together as much as possible, bringing us closer to a long-term solution", says Gert Mulder. "Our principle is 'prepare for the worst, hope for the best'. We are preparing for a border that requires all the formalities we can think of. "
"The market position that we have built up as Dutch fruit and vegetable exporters in the United Kingdom is thanks to our short delivery times, which we need to keep intact more than anything. The sheer volume of the trade flow will be the greatest challenge. All of us are crossing the North Sea, but the number of border crossings is quite limited, so we will need to organize an efficient system for these transition points. We are in full discussion with parties such as NVWA, KCB and Customs."
"We try to keep our members as well-informed as possible, there are practical things that they can do to get started. Participating in the Internal Quality Control Regulations (RIK) of the KCB is an example of this. However, there are also many things that they can't prepare for, such as the entire phyto domain. There has never been a problem with issuing health certificates in the UK, but in time this may become an issue. Therefore something new has to be set up which isn't there yet."
"It's certain that the market is going to change, but what strikes me is that we have already done a lot of preparatory work in the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark and have prepared ourselves in much more detail than other countries have. However, the lack of bilateral talks can be felt. In addition to free trade agreements, we need systems that are coordinated with each other and these discussions must take place between the two customs authorities."
In spite of all the challenges that remain, Mulder is still optimistic about a positive outcome. "The Netherlands and the United Kingdom have a long history together, and the country fought to liberate Europe. I don't want the two countries to be in opposition to each other. We need to respect the democratic decision of the Brexit. My message is: don't fight over food, and instead rely on the trust in each other's systems that you've already had for many years!”