Be careful what you wish for – or the unexpected case of the cheese and ham sandwiches  

Investories BRCC

Be careful what you wish for – or the unexpected case of the cheese and ham sandwiches
Author: Neil McGregor, Chairman of the Board of Directors BRCC

We sat down to our Christmas festivities of 2020 safe in the knowledge that a deal had been negotiated between the UK and the EU for many aspects of their future trading relationship. More than one month after the entry into effect of the new relationship, it is interesting to see how far the „Deal” has covered what was expected – and what has since emerged, which was perhaps not expected by many.

The concerns of gridlock on the roads leading to the Channel ports and empty shelves in the shops have, by and large, not been borne out by what has happened. Given that Romania and the UK are on opposite sides of the continent of Europe, it might be supposed that there would be limited chances of disruption being caused by the new arrangements. There is the saying that it is an ill wind which blows no-one any good, and perhaps one fortunate (if that is the correct word) for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that international travel has fallen off dramatically from normal levels. The current lower levels of international traffic do at least give a chance for us to see how the new arrangements between the UK and the EU are to be made to work, particularly in relation to Romania, without too many people being affected by teething troubles.

There have however been some issues reported. It should be remembered that the UK’s departure from the EU has not affected the relationship existing between the UK and Romania either under the bilateral investment protection treaty between the two countries or under the bilateral treaty on avoiding double taxation. A large part of the framework for business, therefore, remains the same. Notwithstanding the UK’s interest in striking trade deals with countries around the globe, the advantages of doing business and investing between the UK and Romania remain clear, particularly if we can look forward to a period of stable and predictable government in Romania.

The issues of which I have heard should not pose a particular concern for business people. Sending goods – even if they are presents of relatively low value – between the two countries has now caused surprises to some recipients when they find that they are liable to pay VAT on them. On the other hand, I have also heard that companies that deal with the import and export of goods have created more jobs to deal with the new formalities, so there is perhaps a „silver lining” to this particular cloud.

The largest concern appears to be for the free movement of people. Shortly after the New Year I became involved in the situation of a UK citizen who arrived in Romania intending to start work for a business here. It appears that this person’s documentation as an intended employee was not in order and despite the efforts of the Chamber in raising the situation with the British Embassy, admission to Romania was refused and the person was returned to the UK. This is hopefully an isolated incident and may perhaps be explained by confusion over the rights of UK citizens to visit Romania, but it illustrates that a flexible approach to fixing issues with employment documents for newcomers once they have arrived in Romania cannot yet be guaranteed. Such interpretations of the new arrangements are not helpful for business between the two countries and the BRCC urges that a more business-friendly approach will be adopted on both sides.

This brings me to the title of this article. Personal imports of dairy and meat products are now no longer permitted – and the resulting confiscation of the cheese-and-ham sandwiches of lorry drivers arriving in the Netherlands from the UK was a particular story in the British media. We will need to see how such rules are applied in practice as Brexit fades into the past, but the idea of a former Anglican chaplain in Bucharest of bringing in a sausage machine and seasonings from the UK so as to be able to make British sausages with Romanian pork may yet prove to be a good model for future business!

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18 October 2021

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