Operators could face problems sourcing imported catering equipment – or worse still struggle to get hold of vital spare parts – due to Brexit red tape, the Foodservice Equipmen Association has warned.
The organisation is currently lobbying the government for clarification on rules surrounding EU-manufactured appliances amid concerns that some imported foodservice equipment brands may even disappear from the market early next year because of complications surrounding trading arrangements.
As things stand, a number of EU equipment brands that are imported for sale in this country come in via foodservice equipment dealers, which act as UK sales representatives for the manufacturer.
The single market’s free movement of goods allowed for this without the need for paperwork or controls. After January 2021 these businesses will be classified as ‘importers’ and will need to register as importers or ‘authorised representative companies’ if they are to continue to bring in the products.
The FEA says there are several problems with this. One is that, in some cases, the same product line is imported by multiple dealers, which may not be possible under the new regulations.
Another is that many dealers may not want the hassle of changing their role, and so may simply walk away.
Meanwhile, the manufacturer may not want the hassle of either developing a new partnership with another dealer, or setting up their own UK sales office.
The FEA said the situation could mean that getting hold of the product range, and finding spares and replacements, gets “more difficult”.
A third problem, which is certainly exacerbating the situation, is that the government has so far provided limited information on the steps that companies need to take.
Consequently, insiders fear that there simply won’t be enough time to sort out the documentation required before the January 1 implementation.
As a result of the FEA’s pressure, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) is looking to fill the gap in the government advice, and has promised to define the roles and responsibilities of importers and authorised representative companies.
FEA chair John Whitehouse said: “This is an incredibly frustrating situation but it’s hardly untypical of the transition to Brexit. Hopefully we will get the information from BEIS within a few weeks, meanwhile FEA will keep the pressure on.”
MAIN IMAGE: For illustration purposes only.