“Unbelievable”: EU/UK Customs Delays Damaging Business


SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprise Business) are struggling to get goods in and out of the EU with a shipment from China now more reliable and quicker than a shipment from France.

Brendan Walton the managing director of BJW Computers Ltd (, a Maidstone business which supplies toner and copier cartridges, spoke to Jason McCrossan on Maidstone Radio about how delays at customs ports are losing him customers, increasing his costs and affecting his ability to get the parts needed to build and supply his clients with his products.  

Speaking on the Home Time Show Brendan said that trying to get parts from Europe to fulfil orders that would normally take between 2 to 4 days, “has turned into an unknown delay…because no one knows how long a part might take to come into the country”.  In many instances it has taken 5 or more weeks to get the required parts through customs by which time customers cancel their order and go elsewhere.

The delays are specifically effecting small and medium businesses who ‘group’ their products and goods on lorries or containers sharing the transport space with other businesses.  Mr Walton said that unlike big supermarkets or companies who can get their goods cleared in a matter of hours, because they have their own distribution networks with only their products onboard, SME’s use ‘groupage’ which could mean 40 individual companies sharing space on a lorry with products that all need individual customs checks “that lorry now travels to a distribution or warehousing hub and sits and waits for customs to clear those products, that period of time is between 2-3 weeks” claimed Mr Walton.  To make matters worse it was suggested that the distribution warehouses were now so full that goods are stuck on lorries until they can be inspected, with no information on likely clearance times available for businesses or their customers.  

Mr Walton said that the current situation was “unbelievable” with many SME’s withdrawing from selling into Europe due to excessive costs with many unable to “deal with the paperwork”.    Brendan said that he is now looking for suppliers outside of Europe but “the sad thing is our customers in Europe are also probably looking for different suppliers that happen to be…able to ship the product to them in a sensible period of time”.

Are you a small or medium sized business struggling with the new UK/EU trade arrangements, tell us your story:

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