Stephen Watson of Watsons Flowers and Gifts in Ballynahinch said the problems started soon after the protocol was put in place. Initially, I had a lot more paperwork to deal with.
‘At first our regular suppliers outside Britain were struggling to get things through,’ he told the News Letter.
“It got so difficult that some of our suppliers said, ‘No, we don’t ship to Northern Ireland. They disconnected us. And then I had to try to arrange my own transport to pick up goods from them.
“A lot of them stopped shipping to us due to the amount of paperwork involved. We had to fill out a ton of paperwork to get things through.
He believes they were forced to take drastic action “because of all the hassle and stress and smashing their heads against a brick wall”.
“The option that was imposed on us was to buy from the south [of Ireland] or buy from Holland instead of England.
However, he says buying from these countries is “much more expensive”.
The protocol has impacted both flowers and company gifts.
“Most of the gifts we had were from England – we had a really hard time getting them after the protocol.”
The gift business sells items such as soft toys, picture frames, household ornaments, lamp burners, and candles and chocolates.
“My wife would normally buy all these gifts, but I know I’ve had huge problems trying to find things elsewhere.”
There were particular challenges for plants or related products that had soil litter.
“Some of the plants we couldn’t buy – anything with soil in it that we had trouble getting from England.”
As a result, they had no choice but to start with soil-containing products from suppliers in the Republic of Ireland or the Netherlands, both of which are in the EU.
“It has become much easier to buy things in Holland than in England.”
He’s seen dramatic increases in his costs because of this, he says.
“I would say our costs have gone up about 40% on my miscellaneous items. The majority of my flowers have doubled in price”.
Its new suppliers in the EU “completely close the market” and “fix the price” as they see fit, he says.
Its prices to customers must have increased “significantly” as a result. “It’s eating away at our own profit margin.”
He found it all very stressful “because I don’t feel like I have a choice anymore. I feel like my choices are dictated to me – it’s not a free market.
“I just don’t see why there have to be such restrictions on my goods, as I don’t sell in the EU. The interest of the protocol is to prevent the sale of goods from Great Britain to the south, ie the EU. But all of my goods are sold around Ballynahinch and the local Co Down area.
He says he knows of other businesses that have had similar difficulties importing goods from Britain – petrol stations struggling to bring in food, licenses and hardware.
The Consumer Council says at least 130 companies have stopped supplying to NI while Secretary of State Brandon Lewis puts the figure at 200. UFU President David Brown said this week that although some parts of the NI protocol work for multiple products, “it’s causing havoc”. for the others”.
Also this week, Presbyterian Church spokesman Reverend Trevor Gribben said the protocol “isn’t working” and has “unbalanced the delicate settlement that is the Good Friday Agreement”.
Stuart Anderson, public affairs manager at the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said recently that the “big problem” with commentary on the protocol is that its business pros and cons are “used as competing narratives while ‘they don’t need to be’. He said there are real problems with buying property in the UK. “Let me be absolutely clear, GB-NI’s issues are real,” he tweeted.
:: Are you having difficulty importing goods from Great Britain due to the NI protocol? Please email us at [email protected]