Borough Market traders could yet lose their businesses over new trading arrangements in the aftermath of Brexit, its managing director has warned.
Traders at the market had stockpiled products like oil and cheese ahead of the new arrangements which came into force at the beginning of January, said Darren Henaghan.
While many of the traders have adapted, some which import small batches of specialist food products are finding that suppliers will no longer supply them.
“It means that some of the traders have stopped selling some of their products,” he said. “We haven’t lost any traders – yet. But it’s hardly made things any easier.”
He added: “If a trader who has a relationship with a supplier in the EU, if the supplier finds it easier to sell to Europe than to the UK, then the trader is left in a really difficult position.
“They might say, ‘well it’s just not worth it anymore’. At the moment we’re just biding our time, because normally a new regulation would only cover one aspect.
“But what we’ve done is taken all the food regulations, thrown them up in the air and put them together again.”
Traders are avoiding importing some goods, he said, over fear that new paperwork rules might mean it gets stuck at the border.
Fears of long delays at Calais earlier this month have not materialised. Partly, though, he said, was because coronavirus meant that domestic traffic is lighter than it would normally be.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen once the restrictions are removed,” he admitted. “Will there be delays? It’s something we’re really concerned about.”
Despite coronavirus, the market has still seen high numbers of customers. Earlier this month, for the first time since the nineteenth century, Borough Market changed its bylaws, to enforce mask wearing outside.
“We understand that lots of people want to come to Borough Market,” he said. “That’s why we changed the bylaws to enforce it.”
Although the change can be backed up with fines, Mr Henaghan said this had not been necessary so far and that compliance was relatively high.
“We talk to people,” he said. “And there’s been a few difficult conversations. But mostly I think people just want to do the right thing.”