A toner cartridge, British ports – and Brexit going very badly

By Liz

One of the many things that working from home has meant for me is having to take charge of the levels of ink in my own printer. As my colleagues would probably tell you, it’s the kind of thing I don’t tend to address until the very last minute.

So last week, no surprise, my black and white printer just stopped working. I tried shaking the toner cartridge – which worked for another ten sheets or so – and then that was it.

I hit the website of our regular supplier. Winced as I paid over a hundred quid for a cartridge – but was glad it would be coming by next day delivery.

Or so I thought.

The next thing to pop up in my inbox was a nice email from the supplier. My cartridge wouldn’t be available until after December 30. Did I still want it? I decided I did – but thought I’d try my luck with other suppliers. After all, I thought, it wouldn’t hurt to have a spare.

What followed was a series of OUT OF STOCK messages on a number of different sites.

Then I came across one that said: “To order this cartridge, please call this number…”

So I did.

The guy I spoke to sounded weary. “I’m afraid we can’t tell you when we’ll be able to take delivery of your cartridge,” he said.

Is this a Brexit thing?” I asked.

Yes,” he said: “Ink cartridges for printers are mostly made in Germany and Belgium – and currently our supplies are sitting in a lorry at a port. We don’t know when they’ll get here.

Poor guy. 

His small business doesn’t have its own haulage fleet and it doesn’t have warehousing facilities. Instead, it uses freight forwarding services to bring in single digit pallets of goods on an almost-but-not-quite, just-in-time basis. And his goods are just sitting in a port at a time when people are cutting back because of Covid.

So I thought, OK, if these cartridges are made in Germany and Belgium, maybe I can get a European company to ship one to me.

I emailed customer services at a French toner company, and asked if they could possibly send me a cartouche, s’il vous plaît

An answer came back quite quickly. Roughly, it said we shouldn’t have voted for Brexit. I emailed back: “Je vous assure, ce n’était pas moi. Moi, je voulais rester.” Sadly, however, this was to no avail.

I have a horrible feeling this is just the beginning. Supermarkets are stockpiling tinned food because they don’t think they’re going to get adequate supplies of fresh food through in the coming weeks. The government is telling them to. Smaller businesses that rely on imports must be feeling sick.

And still, every now and again, I get that blinking annoying government message pop up in my Twitter feed: “Get ready for Brexit”

It makes me want to slap stupid public school Tory gamon faces. 

“Fuck business,” said Boris Johnson in 2018. He seems to be well on his way to succeeding.