Brexit trade deal branded 'complete and utter disaster' by Bury St Edmunds councillor
A district councillor has claimed ‘people didn’t know what they were voting for’ when they decided to leave the European Union, criticising the trade implications as a ‘complete and utter disaster’.
Cllr Paul Hopfensperger told West Suffolk Council's overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday that new trading arrangements with the continent has severely hampered trade, including his own Body and Mind Studio business in Bury St Edmunds' Risbygate Street, and has burdened companies with reams of paperwork.
"This is supposed to be better for the United Kingdom but it is a complete and utter disaster, in my opinion, as someone who deals with it every single day," said the independent councillor.
"If anyone tells me 'we knew what we were voting for' I say to them you certainly didn't know what you were voting for."
In Suffolk nearly 60 per cent of voters backed leaving the European Union. All districts and boroughs voted to leave, including Ipswich, with support for the split rising as high as 65 per cent in the former Forest Heath area.
Cllr Hopfensperger said new paperwork requirements to sell products abroad had meant hundreds and hundreds of hours of work, and had even made it difficult to send items to Northern Ireland.
"Just to send one little bottle of supplements across the channel, its an almighty task," he said. "If you want to import products into the country, unless you're Einstein, you have to employ a customs agent."
He said Brexit had, like the coronavirus, affected people's mental health too and later added: "One of my residents said 'I'm glad we're out of the EU now, we've got it all to ourselves', and he's a retired bus driver. Now I'm not being disrespectful to that person, but what I'm saying is it doesn't affect him in any way shape or form. What it does affect is our children and people right the way through to retirement age."
Jill Korwin, corporate director at West Suffolk, said many businesses from a range of sectors had been impacted by the change.
"Across Suffolk we are working on a [post-Covid] recovery plan, and that does include the fact we are having to deal with Brexit at the same time," she said. "Looking at that post-Covid, post-Brexit recovery plan, it does address issues such as mental health, but trying to also look at what that future looks like."
And Cllr Diane Hind, Labour, told the committee: "I am sure that Brexit is going to be a bigger problem for businesses than Covid, I am quite convinced of it."
Other issues raised by councillors during the meeting, which was held to discuss the district's preparations for Brexit, included the impact on Newmarket's horseracing industry, imports at British Sugar, and on data security.
And delays on shipping products to people had also been raised, with Cllr Terry Clements, Conservative, having told the committee about residents who had seen packages opened by customs officials and extra tax being charged.