Indie press Galley Beggar has warned of the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on publishing after learning of “crazy” government requirements on distribution and warned it could put smaller publishers out of business.
The Norwich-based independent, which recently scored a Booker Prize nomination with Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport, fears smaller publishers could be put out of business over legal uncertainty around Brexit.
Galley Beggar founder Sam Jordison outlined concerns around UK government and Publishers' Association guidance, and in particular government guidance suggesting that publishers will need to state country of origin or International Organization of Standardization (ISO) codes for their inventory. The government published its Yellowhammer contingency plan which details “worst case” scenarios for a no-deal Brexit last week. The document warned of channel crossing delays and disrupted trade across the Irish border.
He said: “Everything is going to have to have a country of origin stamp which just seems crazy. That’s just the first thing and already it’s taking absolutely ages. We just don’t think about it at the moment. We get most things in Britain as it happens but how is a big publisher going to figure out where all their books have come from? They are never going to know. The book might be printed in the UK but the paper might have come from somewhere. How far back along this road do we have to go and do the printers have to go? At what point do you have to stop specifying country of origin?”
“We’re terrified, we are genuinely terrified. There’s all kinds of other reasons to object to Brexit but from a practical point of view it’s going to completely screw us. The main concern is that this is potentially going to put people out of business. Not even potentially, it is going to put people out of business. Our margins are small so rising costs are already a nightmare – that’s only going to get worse. Paper, transport are going to go up – even with a deal that stuff is problematic.”
The publisher also reiterated concerns of how Amazon could take advantage of a no-deal Brexit to undercut UK publishers on EU English language rights. In July, Waterstones m.d. James Daunt told BBC News of concerns that EU protection against anti-competitive behaviour by Amazon may be lost post-Brexit.
Jordison added: “It’s generally assumed with UK contracts at the moment that you’re going to have EU-wide English language rights. Suddenly that comes into question. Agents can make the case that why would we give you EU-wide English language rights which is immediately a loss in terms of editions you might sell. But it’s also a real problem in that suddenly US publishers become your rivals.
“It’s just the kind of situation you can imagine someone like Amazon using to undercut an edition if they wanted to. They could bring in loads of US editions into the EU and ironically enough flood the UK market from there. That particular one is a worry for all publishers.”
Jordison added there was a growing anger with government communications over Brexit – citing a lack of clarity over contracts and movement of goods should Britain leave the European Union without a deal.
He said: “My general feeling is that it’s like sticking a plaster over when your leg’s been chopped off. It’s endless hassle. We are being forced to do things that more than likely to be a waste of time for everyone concerned. Even if we did all the compliance in the world I would still feel completely underprepared because we don’t know what we are preparing for.
“Our priority is very much the Booker prize and we’ve got a book called Patience by Toby Litt on the way. We don’t want to be distracted from those and that’s what this stuff is doing.”
At the time of writing, Britain is due to leave the EU on 31st October. This afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to tell European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that the UK is not prepared to delay Brexit beyond the October deadline, the BBC reports.
Publishers, distributors and booksellers have repeatedly raised concerns over supply delays, over-ordering and delays at the border as the trade enters peak gifting season, as well as over a loss of consumer confidence at a crucial time of the year.