It was a Brexit “export champion”. Now Kent Brewery has one EU customer left

A Kent brewery chosen to promote post-Brexit export opportunities for the government has revealed it only has one customer in the EU after onerous customs checks and paperwork.

The Old Dairy Brewery in Kent – a Department for International Trade export champion for the South East – appeared in a government video last year promoting the potential to boost Brexit export sales.

However, exports of bottled and cask Kent Ale to countries like Italy, Germany and Sweden have slumped since the UK left the EU over paperwork hassles.

The brewery now has a European customer, a Berlin pub owner who drives a van to England to collect the beer. The value of the Kent brewery’s annual beer exports has fallen from £600,000 to £2,000.

Virginia Hodge, export manager for the Tenterden-based brewery, said: “Some transport companies are now not taking alcohol with them because of the many transit documents you need. I used to be able to put together a case of beer and send it by courier [to Europe] and now I have to send it through the full customs declaration. Our customers in Europe say they want British beer, but it’s just not cost effective. You have a lot more paperwork to do.”

She said the brewery’s only remaining European customer faced several challenges. She said: “When he first came over we were up all night trying to get him through customs in Dover and out of the country.

“He was stuck because of the paperwork. He used to only come for one night, now it takes four days because of all the problems.”

Hodge said small businesses weren’t getting enough support. She said, “There is no one to ask and there is no system.” She said advisers from the state helplines have referred questions about export issues to the government website.

UK exports of goods to the EU hit £16.9 billion in May, the highest since figures began in 1997. However, it is smaller traders who are particularly struggling with the extra paperwork required for exports to Brexit is required.

Traffic jams in the port of Dover caused by the additional bureaucracy on the border with France. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Old Dairy Brewery is now hoping to boost its EU business by bundling orders with other small breweries. It now oversees an export collective which it hopes will help increase trade in British beers.

Hodge said: “We hope that the export collective will make us more attractive to foreign importers. We’re trying to get beers for a trade fair in Munich, but the paperwork is huge.”

She added it was “ironic” that the brewery had been chosen to promote potential post-Brexit opportunities, but said she hopes the collective will help navigate the bureaucratic challenges now faced with the sale to European customers are connected.

Export Secretary Andrew Griffith said: “We know that post-Brexit companies will have to deal with new rules. We help more companies seize new opportunities and our export strategy gives them the tools they need.”

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