The GTN Brexit Survey has served to highlight the great work the Gun Trade Association is doing, plus this summer is the time to make a statement, argues Simon West.
Thank you to all of you who submitted responses to the survey on import and export challenges that have arisen since Brexit. There are a number of consistent themes: paperwork, transport services and core politics.
The political comments were enlightening—some wanting to get back to Europe—some delighted we’re out. I’m not sure what that tells us, except that the Trade includes those from right across the debate.
What is certain is that we are now out and things are different. Since January, I have been deeply involved in helping out our members and have learned things I never knew I would need to know. I’m delighted we have had a few good success stories.
How would I characterise the new trading environment? Well, first it’s been untidy. In the early days, a combination of new procedures and Covid-19 left the international trade in turmoil.
Long queues at Dover trying to get out and long queues at Calais trying to get in. Both had the immediate effect of reducing transport companies’ appetite to do business along those routes. I sense that that is now receding but there may have been a longer-term influence on who wants to carry controlled items.
That is also affected by the paperwork issues. There doesn’t seem to be one transport corridor that hasn’t suffered paperwork confusion. Additional requirements for European export licences—End-user Certificates (government stamped for some countries), International Import Certificates, transhipment licences—have all put extra burdens on the Trade.
There are two potential mitigators: the first is knowledge. We are all learning—originators, shippers and consignees. The more we learn, the easier it becomes. There are new paperwork burdens but it will become easier when we understand what to do. Call me for help if you need it.
The second is the politics. Whether its Northern Ireland, France or Germany, some of the difficulties have been exacerbated by politics. There is no quick solution to this but we are engaging with Government to make them aware and to ask for help.
Jonathan Djanogly MP, as chairman of the British Shooting Sports Council, wrote to Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade, last week at the request of the Trade to make her aware of difficulties experienced with European countries making additional, perhaps unnecessary, demands on the licensing of shipping firearms. We have asked for DIT support in meeting these new demands as a first step to easing the process.
Jonathan is keen to help us and wants to raise awareness of the challenges we face. He particularly encourages you to keep your MPs informed so that international trade remains a focus area for government.
Whoever represents you, they can keep the pressure on government to provide us with a stronger trading environment through access to markets and simplified licence provision. Tell me about your engagements and I can use that in my direct dealings in Westminster and Whitehall.
We are all hoping there are no ‘variant issues’ to get in the way of opening up again. We now need to be ready to come back strongly. The opening of shooting grounds on 29 March and the end of ‘stay at home’ is the first step, followed by the reopening of retail ‘not before 12 April’ is the next. Now is the time to drive the shooting public’s determination to re-engage with shooting and retail.
While some may have felt reluctant to promote unnecessary activity during lockdown, now you need to go for it. Redouble social media efforts to inspire customers and get them poised to start shooting.
Things are looking good for summer gatherings—The Game Fair, which takes place Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th, shooting and country shows—so be there in strength. I suspect the public will be all too ready to attend and you need to be in their eyeline.
New products, equipment upgrades, the next generation—give them what they know they want. Generate all you can by ‘reopening’ events or specials to grab attention. And have something to interest the whole family.
Lin Oxley, Ben Tolhurst and I are poised to get out and see you all. The Association is here to help, so whether it is international trade or setting you up with marketing support, give us a call on 01684 291868 or visit: gtaltd.co.uk