Pandemic masks Brexit blows to small businesses

Thursday, 24th June 2021

flowers design(2)

Harry Patel at his stand in Fitzjohn’s Avenue

THE coronavirus pandemic has dominated the news agenda for well over a year now.

The impact has been so all-consuming that it has been hard to think about anything else. And yet for many people, Brexit has been steadily simmering in the background.

Throughout the debate, in Parliament and out on the street, pretty much everyone was confused about what would, in fact, happen if we exited the European Union.

People went into that vote unarmed, without cast iron facts. There was so much potentially to lose or to gain. The high-falutin’ arguments and postering didn’t help anyone.

It could be said flower traders are as much assets of community value as anything else in Camden, (Brexit has turned into a blooming disaster, say flower sellers, June 24).

Many people across the borough will have gone their whole lives seeing the same friendly face on the corner.

Often sociable, they are important sources of information for residents. They tie the community together. And they seem to have made good business too – until this year that is.

We hear a lot about the fishermen who can’t get their langoustines out to Spain when they catch it in Scotland. It’s just as difficult for independent flower traders to bring stuff in.

Costs keep going up and up, making it more and more difficult for small businesses to survive. Importers are having to sort flower passports, border quality checks and new and expensive tiers of bureaucracy.

A Brexiteer might ask why this country’s flowersellers have become so dependent on imports from abroad. Surely they can go back to buying their stems from England’s growers?

Chain supermarkets have cornered that trade. Surprise, surprise – the packaged goods they line up for us, perhaps slightly cheaper, are not considered to be the best quality.

Even if market sellers were to go back to selling British flowers, what effect would this have?

Both Mr Atkins and Mr Patel say that English flowers do not compare to the wonders that come from abroad. Our homes would become dour; our presents to our loved ones, less beautiful; our apologies, less sincere.

Independent traders are perhaps most affected by the separation than most people in Camden.

The flower sellers’ concerns may be like the canary in the coal mine of things to come. Many small businesses are struggling also.

Brexit was top of the national agenda, for many years before the pandemic erupted, affecting everyone. It is unlikely to go back to that. But the impact will be felt by our independent traders for a long time to come.

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