Business won't be blooming for florists after Brexit

A ROSE by any other name might still smell as sweet, but what if the price increased by 14 per cent and you had to drive 10 miles to the supermarket because your local florist had been forced to close?

While floristry is a big industry, it’s composed of many small local retailers, all of whom are in serious danger. Not that I’m advocating you rush out right now and buy a bumper bouquet for your nearest and dearest (although we could all do with getting brownie points while we can), but this is just one example of the unforeseen consequences of Brexit.

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First published in The National, 4 April 2018

It’s also a pretty fascinating area. I must confess I wouldn’t have immediately looked up the British Florist Association or Florint, the International Florist Organisation when researching Brexit outcomes and projections, but these folk are exceptionally savvy and well-informed when it comes to action plans and briefings for their membership. They have to be. More than 90 per cent of florists think Brexit will impact on their business, and we’re already losing high-street florists at the rate of five a week due to the falling pound.

Things look bleak for our local florists because time really is money in this industry – flowers that have been stuck in a queue at customs cost the same but sell for much less. “Buy British then!” I hear the Brexiters cry. Well, flowers are an import-based business, with 70 per cent of them coming from the Netherlands. The UK’s imports of cut flowers outstrip its exports by 30 times. That’s a lot of daffodil farms Andrea Leadsom is going to have to accommodate along with those decent British butterflies.

Most of the talk around Brexit has been around the importance of UK exports to the EU and elsewhere, but trade regimes tend to be reciprocal, and so import-reliant businesses and their customers are likely to be deeply affected by Brexit. We import so many flowers because it’s not feasible for us to produce the volume we need to meet demand.

Currently, we enjoy free trade because we’re part of the club. Losing EU trade agreements could well mean that flower prices increase dramatically. Without that protection, there’s a serious risk that prices could rocket by 14 per cent, according to Florint.

The overwhelming majority of the millions of freight vehicles passing between the UK and the rest of Europe do so via the Channel Tunnel or Dover ferries, free of customs clearance queues and faff at the port.

Out of the EU, that will change, and shipments will be forced to submit to customs control, slowing down their vehicles for up to four hours. That’s a lot of crushed freesias and droopy tulips.

Nobody voted for their local florist to go out of business. Nobody voted to be priced out of buying a bunch of daffodils for their mum or a bouquet for an anniversary. Nobody voted to walk down the aisle with empty hands because the florist wasn’t able to secure a supplier.

This is one more example of how Brexit isn’t cocking a snook at some faceless bureaucrat. Instead, this hard Brexit is taking bread out of the mouths of ordinary people who did nothing to deserve it.

The UK Government’s “hard Brexit at all costs” stance is going to do untold damage to the country, even the parts of it that didn’t vote for Brexit. We need people to stand up and say “enough” before it’s too late. The UK might have voted by a slim majority to leave the EU (from a turnout of less than three-quarters, but that doesn’t mean we Remainers and Leavers alike are powerless to stand up against this nonsense being done in our name.