Marks & Spencer blames Brexit red-tape as it bids adieu to France

·2-min read

Marks & Spencer is closing 11 franchise stores in France blaming Brexit red-tape for “long and complex” delays in exporting fresh food.

The company led by Steve Rowe said the stores, run with partner SFH, and mostly in Paris, will shut by the end of the year.

Paul Friston, the company’s managing director for international business, said: “M&S has a long history of serving customers in France and this is not a decision we or our partner SFH have taken lightly.”

Nine other M&S franchise stores, run by Lagardere at French airports and train stations, will remain open.

The company said the strict regulations controlling the export of food from Britain into the EU are leading to border delays, making items with a very short shelf life, such as freshly-made sandwiches, unsellable.

It has already stopped stocking fresh and chilled products at its stores in the Czech Republic and instead sells frozen and less perishable products.

Archie Norman, chairman of M&S, criticised the “byzantine, pointless, pettifogging” bureaucracy following Brexit, which he said also forced the company to cut 800 lines in its Republic of Ireland stores including free- range chicken, orchids and Parmesan.

In a statement, M&S said: “The lengthy and complex export processes now in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union are significantly constraining the supply of fresh and chilled product from the UK into Europe and continuing to impact product availability for customers and the performance of our business in France.”

The update marks the latest change to the structure of Marks & Spencer’s European businesses following the UK’s exit from the EU.

Friston added: “As things stand today, the supply chain complexities in place following the UK’s exit from the European Union, now make it near impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled products to customers to the high standards they expect, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.”

The chain’s website in France, which is run by M&S and sells mostly clothing and home products, is not impacted.

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