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French stallholder cheesed off with expensive Brexit red tape

'Phytosanitary checks – and it's finished'

07 October, 2021 — By Anna Lamche

Frances Drain at his cheese stall

A CHEESE seller says Brexit red tape has put the future of his stall at risk.

Frances Drain, originally from Picardie in northern France, has lived and worked in north London since 2007.

Along with his wife Sylvie, he sells a range of French cheeses and charcuterie from his Frances et Sylvie market stalls in Swiss Cottage and Archway.

But since Britain’s divorce from the European Union, Mr Drain said he was finding it more difficult and more expensive to import food from France.

Because he does not buy in bulk and his food is fresh, Mr Drain has to place small weekly orders from his suppliers in France but has to pay to fill out forms on both sides of the channel.

“Before Brexit, things were easy,” said Mr Drain. “It was a two-hour job. Now you pay twice. That is more expensive than the price of the food.”

These administrative fees cost him between £200 and £300 a week, he said, and he had been forced to raise prices slightly.

“My profits are down, down, down,” said Mr Drain.

He is also worried about the introduction of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks which he has been told will be required from next July.

SPS checks review the quality of imported animal and plant products. These checks will also cost Mr Drain money.

“If they introduce the phytosanitary checks, it’s finished,” said Mr Drain.

“Seventeen years I’ve been living here, I know all the customers. I have a customer who was a child of 12 years old when I arrived. Now this child has grown up and had a baby, so I have three generations of customers.

“Thanks to Brexit, that is broken.”

He is convinced the government is not doing enough to protect small businesses reliant on EU imports.

“If I imported £5million worth of food, it would be fine, no problem. But for smaller traders like me, it’s not possible,” Mr Drain said. “The government doesn’t care. They see the supermarkets are OK and then don’t care.”

Oded Bental, a customer who has been visiting Frances et Sylvie for 13 years, said: “If they have to close I will be devastated, I will struggle to find a replacement. There’s nothing quite like it.”

In June, long-standing flower sellers in Camden told how they too were facing problems with imports of blooms from the Netherlands.

The government said that it was working with small businesses to identify new opportunities that Brexit could provide and that “overall businesses are adjusting well to the new rules”.


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