Norwich pub Belgian Monk and Bury beer shop among small firms warning of Brexit uncertainty

Terry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk, which could set up a new European company to

Terry Hughes, one of the partners at the Belgian Monk, which could set up a new European company to avoid costs from Brexit. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Small businesses importing exclusively from Europe are considering drastic measures to protect their bottom line amid fears over Brexit.

The Belgian Monk in Norwich's Pottergate imports premium beers from Belgium and could be forced to set up a new company in Europe to prevent a 'massive' financial hit, if the UK voted to leave, according to its owners.

Terry Hughes, partner at the Belgian Monk, anticipated the cost of leaving the EU would ultimately be felt by his customers.

'We will still be able to acquire the products, but we will have to pay more for it,' he said.

'There is a price point you can't break, and if we leave we will feel the impact very severely on our business.


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'We have already said if it comes down to it we would set up our own Belgian company to regulate the price we sell back to the UK at. We can't take massive hits because we are a one-man-band.

'Unfortunately at the end the user has to pay for it. If we were based in Belgium the price to export a keg of beer to the UK would be down to us. If the impact of coming out was too high I think we would seriously have to consider that.'

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Mr Hughes said UK businesses could face a sudden price rise as they did in 1999 with the introduction of the single currency.

A poll of polls with three months to go to the referendum showed the In campaign's lead over Out had narrowed to 51-49.

Damien Cabanis has been running Les Garrigues French food and wine store from St John Maddermarket for the last five months.

He said uncertainty over Brexit was making his business 'precarious' with sterling falling against the euro.

'Even if it falls by 5p on a bottle of wine when you import a pallet that is £300 added cost to us,' he said.

'If people are going to vote exit it will definitely make sterling weaker and more difficult for small businesses to import. My suppliers will still be wanting to sell to us, but it will make the products more expensive over here.

'There is that fear of going towards the unknown, because we know our neighbours but do not know the way China does business.'

René van den Oort, proprietor of Beautiful Beers, a Belgian beer shop in Bury St Edmunds for the last five years said 'the worst part is not knowing what will happen'.

'Importing alcohol can only be done because of the free movement of goods,' he said. 'When you try to import from countries outside the EU the paperwork and red tape is astronomical. The work involved increases hugely and I think that will put suppliers off.'

The most recent survey from the British Chambers of Commerce revealed more than eight in 10 business leaders in the East of England reported the referendum had no material impact on orders and sales, recruitment, investment or costs in their business.

If the UK were to leave the EU, 34pc expected it would have a negative impact on their overall growth strategy; 38pc felt it would have no impact and 23.5pc believed it would have a positive impact.

Caroline Williams, Norfolk Chamber chief executive, said businesses were 'making rational economic choices based on their own interests.'

A government spokesman said 'the single market gives UK businesses and consumers tariff-free access to the world's largest trading bloc.'

How would Brexit affect you? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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