Multiple businesses hit with issues after Brexit

Business owners have faced a large wave of delivery and price issues since Brexit.  

In 2016, a referendum took place to ask the people of the UK if they wished to remain a part of the European Union, which the majority voted against. In January 2020, the UK officially left the European Union, gaining the term “Brexit”. 

Brexit brought an immense number of changes to the functioning of society by officially changing the nature of the formal relationship between the UK and the EU. This threw many businesses into a financial unknown.  

The people of Northern Ireland were left wondering what changes this would bring. After the withdrawal from the EU, the border in Ireland became the only land border between the UK and the EU.  Therefore, to protect the EU’s single market an agreement was reached that there would be an NI protocol.  

This aims to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland along with keeping the EU single market intact. Northern Ireland was thus able to function as normal when delivering goods to Great Britain and EU countries. This does not mean that there has not been implications for businesses in Northern Ireland, as they have been impacted by price raises when trying to get their goods.  

Many owners rely on their worldwide customers to keep their business going, but with the new introduction of custom charges, raised VAT and tax prices many shops found themselves unable to ship outside of the UK. Although owners do not have to add on extra custom declaration documents within Northern Ireland, the recipient, who lives elsewhere, may face extra custom charges that vary in price depending on what the item is, along with VAT and handling charges before they are allowed to even get their order.  

These extra charges also affect companies themselves. If a company were to get something shipped to them from outside of the UK, they would have to pay any of the import charges added on. This means that there is now an added risk of the profit not outweighing the cost. This results in many businesses having to raise their own prices for certain items in order to ensure they can stay afloat.  

Rachel Stephens, a 21 year old from Northern Ireland is the founder of an Etsy shop, LunauraCrystals. Speaking about the direct impact that Brexit has had on her small business she said, “Thankfully I have not majorly been impacted but I have definitely seen a price increase when ordering stock to sell”.  

When asked about the main changes that her business has faced since Brexit, Rachel explained, “As a crystal seller, my products are completely natural and come directly from the source. I purchase wholesale crystals from all over the world, for example Africa and Asia, and as a result of Brexit, I have noticed an increase in shipping costs to obtain my stock. As a result of this, I have had to increase my product’s prices to assure that I’m not losing money. This has resulted in people less willing to purchase what would be described as ‘luxury’ items as we are also currently in a cost-of-living crisis”.  

With the cost-of-living crisis, mixed with the raised prices of stock, Rachel reflects on how she feels like she is one of the lucky ones, “I’m so grateful that I run my Etsy shop on the side and have my actual day to day, full time job. For some people out there, their small business is their entire income and with all these price raises, it’s a very tricky situation.” 

While NI companies have not had to face many differences to their delivery systems, businesses from other parts of the UK have found themselves facing new challenges.  

Along with fees for the buyer, in all other parts of the UK, with no NI Protocol, the actual business owners have new rules when they ship their products outside of the UK to the EU. 

UK businesses now must ensure that they fill out customs declaration forms for exports to the EU, along with appropriately handling the VAT for the same products. Goods being exported from the UK will also now require safety and security declarations, and if the delivery involves live animals or plants, there will be more checks.  

While exporting goods has not changed too extremely, many items are now more difficult to be shipped to Northern Ireland, causing many businesses to face stock shortages. Due to the ongoing negotiations to reach a complete agreement on what Brexit means for Northern Ireland, shipping items into Northern Ireland has been made more difficult. 

A spokesperson for a worldwide technology company Xencelabs, confirmed that their delivery services have been made more difficult as they ship worldwide, from several places around the world.  

Ian said, “We now must factor in extra time to complete all the required documentation before we ship any of our products, which is extremely time consuming. One main thing that has affected our company is that because of all the extra custom checks, the expected delivery times have been extended. It takes much longer to get our products to the recipient, which isn’t good when you work on deadlines, like we do”. 

He went on to explain, “longer delivery periods mean customers may not get their products when they are meant to, which in turn could reflect bad on us. It’s now very important that we expect delays so that we can work around them”.  

This shows that since Brexit it has been extremely tough for businesses to adapt to an entire new trading system. Northern Ireland companies seem to currently have an easier way of shipping due to the NI Protocol, compared to the rest of the UK. However, it is evident now more than ever that the price raises post Brexit are extremely affecting businesses that are doing their best to stay afloat.  

For more information on the NI Protocol and Brexit visit