Europe

Why Brexit made top UK wine seller relocate to France

For 30 years, Daniel Lambert ran a thriving wine business from the UK — but on New Year’s Day in 2021 everything changed. 

The completion of Brexit saw his costs spiral — with trading requirements starting a £150,000-a-year leak in his firm that he proudly “started up with a fiver”. 

Now, Lambert, 50, has moved to southern France to run his company in hopes of cutting down on “red tape” expenses. 

Daniel Lambert Wines imports some 1.8million bottles of wine from Europe each year, supplying them to major British supermarkets Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. 

But UK shoppers are now paying up to £1.50 (€1.77) more per bottle compared to before Brexit, Lambert said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic had also played a part. 

“Brexit is fundamentally damaging the UK economy. I haven’t seen a single benefit of it,” he said from his new home near Montpellier.

Lambert hopes that by operating in France he will reduce the annual cost of importing back to the UK, which he valued at up to £150,000 (€177,000). 

He will continue to run his warehouse in south Wales, where he employs five people.

“This is a cost-saving plan. It’s not just something I thought up overnight,” Lambert said.

“It’s the only way to have the competitive edge I need. Being able to trade in the EU effectively is much easier with an EU base.

“I’m trying to mitigate all the paperwork costs and just have a logistics cost.”

Lambert said that shipping costs had almost doubled since before Brexit, rising from £160 (€190) per pallet to £288 (€345). 

But he said the biggest expense is paperwork requirements brought about after the UK withdrew from the European Single Market. 

While EU trade benefits from the free movement of goods, imports to Britain are subject to tighter checks which can include physical inspections of produce. 

Lambert said that paperwork had snowballed since Brexit with an apparent 18 new processes for him to complete before importing goods from the EU to the UK. 

Many companies use Europe-based “brokers” to make sense of and to manage new EU-UK trading requirements — but this involves additional charges for their services. 

Lambert said he hopes to sidestep these costs by managing the paperwork himself from his company’s new hub in France. 

However, he has faced backlash on social media after sharing his plans to leave “Brexitland”. 

One woman commented: “What stupid remarks from this man, we really don’t need people like him in our country. We are Great Britain and will be getting greater.”

Lambert, who has a dual French-British nationality, said he was surprised by the criticism, adding: “I think a lot of people need to wake up. 

“My dual nationality means I now have more rights than someone with just a British passport.”

Lambert, who is living with his wife and two teenage children, said he had been contacted by thousands of expats who had move to the continent for financial reasons. 

He added: “People told me they’ve moved and haven’t looked back. I didn’t want to do this, I honestly think it’s a very sad state of affairs.”

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