LONDON – In a cosmopolitan capital like London, diners can opt for tortilla and Iberico ham tapas just as easily as the British staple of fish and chips, but that could be changing, as Spanish restaurants and shops that are already struggling amid COVID lockdown are facing even more bureaucratic hurdles because of Brexit.
Despite the free trade agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom, the new customs barriers since Jan. 1 have shaken up a fundamental aspect of their business: the arrival of the product from abroad.
“For us, it is vital to bring in our products,” said Alberto Torres, manager of Llerena, a typical Spanish food restaurant in North London.
“We are going to have costs associated with customs agencies,” said the 31-year-old, who sees another problem in the hours needed to fulfill the proper documentation.
Spaniard Antonio Carreira, owner of two restaurants and a traditional shop in Notting Hill, says he is still figuring out how to properly complete the importation process.
“I think that neither Spain nor the United Kingdom still know what needs to be done,” Carreira explained, overwhelmed by the 72 pages of paperwork that he says are necessary to bring a truck full of products.
The UK desperately needs food from outside its borders as it is only capable of producing three-quarters of what it consumes. To cover the remaining quarter, equivalent to 47 billion pounds (54 billion euros), it relies on EU countries to make up for 70% of that shortfall.
“Let us not forget that precisely the geographical proximity of Spain with the United Kingdom is the great advantage to compete in future with new participants in the British market,” said Eduardo Barrachina, president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the UK.
But, despite being a “very dynamic” agreement subject to modifications, Barrachina clarifies, “it will never be as easy to export to the UK as it has been to date.”