An article proclaiming how small businesses have “adapted to survive and thrive after Brexit” has been widely mocked on social media.
ITV News Anglia highlighted a number of small businesses across the region – with one in Cambridgeshire declaring that business “has never been so good” since the UK quit the EU.
Horizon in Ely, which manufactures marketing displays for brands all across Europe, revealed it was “about 35 per cent up compared to last year and the year before”.
The firm’s director, Andrew Moss, told the broadcaster: “We’re doing a lot of international work – we’re shipping materials to Germany, to Holland, a lot to France – so the EU is making up about 80 per cent of our turnover right now.”
New offices in the EU
But ITV quietly revealed the major reason for Horizon’s success: most of the company’s competitors have closed because of Brexit.
Other companies have been able to “survive and thrive” by setting up “new offices on the continent” or making “new trading arrangements to sell abroad”, the broadcaster reported.
The Horizon case is particularly telling. ITV reported that, after Britain left the EU, companies had to start charging VAT on exports to Europe – hiking prices by 20 per cent, something Moss described as a “car crash”.
The only solution, ITV said, “was to start a company in Holland, at a cost of £100,000. Costs and time to ship goods has doubled but he has been able to cover this with the increased turnover.”
And Moss told reporters: “We didn’t have a choice. It was either start a company in Europe or lose our customers. Brexit brought enormous problems but with the creation of our new business in Holland it brought us enormous opportunities and we’ve seen positive trading ever since. We’ve adapted and we’ve succeeded.”
Another business owner in Essex, who had been due to expand into Europe, has “adapted” by focussing on UK sales. But, he told ITV, he will also have to set up a distribution base on the continent.
Commenting on the article, Edwin Hayward – author of a book about Brexit – tweeted: “One spent a huge amount of money to open a division in NL. Another gave up on EU sales to focus entirely on the UK. And these are the success stories!”
And he pointed to another ITV article which detailed how small businesses are “still reeling” from Brexit one year on.
In that piece – published the same day as its companion – a restaurant owner warns that higher import costs could drive him to the wall.
Sergio Teacu, who runs an Italian restaurant in Essex, said: “Just this bag of flour last year was £19.89 – now it’s £28 per bag.
“On the parma ham, prosciutto crudo, the price went from £16 to £19 per kilo. All the prices on all the salamis, cheeses, olives went up between 10 per cent and 30 per cent on average.”
He added: “If you change the products, if you try to take different products that are cheaper, suddenly the quality goes down.
“If you want to do something properly and you want to do a quality pizza you need those ingredients. With the prices increasing it will be much harder to sustain a good quality product and still go forward with the pizzeria.”