Purchasing from the United Kingdom used to be simple – but no more. EM Oxford’s Justin Meadows explains how Brexit left him – and Northern Ireland – out in the cold.
As somebody who has been unconvinced of the benefits of the UK leaving the EU I thought I had taken all appropriate precautions. Food cupboards are well stocked, a four month supply of dog food and I even made sure I had a topped up on heating oil. I was ready to weather any storm that Brexit may throw at me.
Whilst waiting for sunlit uplands, along came a cold snap in January. No problem I thought, I’m prepared, I have the heating oil after all. Disaster, the boiler breaks. OK, nobody panic – these things happen. Plumber attends and we need a new switch, an easy fix. A quick telephone around the plumbing suppliers in town (finally a valid reason to leave the house during lockdown) but alas, all out of stock.
Next step, an internet search. Yes! Plenty to choose from. Select from many options, pay £11 for the speediest possible delivery, it was getting very cold by now, and tell the plumber the switch will be with us tomorrow. Shiver whilst waiting.
The great day arrives, we wait for our shiny new switch and nothing. Another cold night. The next day phone the company to find out what has gone wrong. They swear they despatched it. Where are you based? Northern Ireland……
Many phone calls later between the courier company and the supplier (I won’t say who they are, none of this is their fault) we established that my £9 package is held up at ‘the border’. No particular reason just a delay ‘at the border’.
Funny thing about this border. It didn’t exist on 31 December. Johnson, Gove et al swear blind it doesn’t exist at all. Yet something was holding up my most vital £9 heating switch.
So lesson learnt the coldest way possible. Before Brexit I didn’t spend anytime looking at where a company was based before ordering online. Now, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the physical location of the item you’re ordering before hitting the ‘buy now’ button.
Whilst my example is chillingly small we know that there are much bigger issues within Northern Ireland around food delivery and other daily essentials. Few of these problems can be resolved until the Government acknowledge that there is a border.
It exists. It is entirely of Johnson’s own making. Many will remember that Theresa May said that ‘no UK Prime Minister could ever accept a border in the Irish sea’. Johnson claims there isn’t in his Brexit agreement. Why did my switch take so long Prime Minister?