Feature: Dover freight agent struggles with house sale, new citizenship application due to Brexit

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-29 23:39:25|Editor: yan
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DOVER, Britain, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Ever since Brexit became a probability, local freight agent John Shirley has been trying to sell his house in Dover and leave Britain altogether.

Now that Brexit is happening, his house remains on the market without a buyer thanks to continuing uncertainties posed by Brexit.


Shirley, 57, is a well-known face and voice in the freight industry in Dover, one of Britain's main arteries for European trade. Having been in the freight industry for over 20 years, Shirley believes that Brexit, be it deal or no deal, will severely impact his business and his life.

"We took the decision to sell the house back in October 2019, and that was a tough one because we really like this house," he told Xinhua.

His house, a 17th-century Grade II listed building, still has "For Sale" signs dotted around its entrance.

"We've got some friends nearby who have said: 'We can't understand why your house hasn't sold? It's a nice house, it's a good price.'"

Shirley has been told that Brexit is partly to blame for the lack of interest in the building.

If there is no offer on the house by June 2020, Shirley said he intends to lower the price which according to him, "would be a huge blow."


As the founder of John Shirley Ltd., an international freight forwarder situated in an old train station in the port of Dover, Shirley has been on the frontline of Britain's import and export industry.

He has raised his concerns over the length of delays lorry drivers will face getting into and out of Britain after Brexit. Currently only 1 percent of the around 10,000 lorries that pass through Dover every day have to go through customs clearance. After Brexit, it may become compulsory for every lorry to be checked.

"I started my own company in 1996, and I know the terrible delays that you can have ... so it's not to be taken lightly," he said, noting that the delay could take for days.

Shirley said the British government has now devoted funds to the British freight forwarding community to train up more personnel to handle the customs clearance checks after Brexit, but he doesn't believe that the port of Dover has enough space to house the required amount of personnel -- which he estimates should be around 8,000.

Adding to his fear is that delays within the freight industry will harm the wider British economy despite the government's pledge of a "Global Britain" after Brexit.


Holding a majority of 80-seat in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has secured Britain's departure from the EU on Jan. 31. However, any "leaving party" champagne celebrations will be short-lived as that "victory" is just phase one of a longer race -- reaching a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020.

If a trade deal is not agreed by then -- and without agreed extension -- it would leave Britain trading on World Trade Organization terms with the EU, with the likelihood of tariffs on imports and exports. Dover, inevitably, will be at the fore-front of the impact.

Shirley has already ordered and received his grandfather's Irish birth certificate, waiting for some more documents to come through and then apply for Irish citizenship. A record number of British people have sought Irish citizenship since the Brexit referendum, using the Irish citizenship as a means of remaining within the EU.

"I understand it will take around 14 months to process, as there's been a huge backlog of applicants from this country -- then we have to decide where we are going to live," Shirley said.

Shirley has drafted a plan to move to France. He hopes within the next two years his business and house would have been sold, but there is still uncertainty on how his plan will fully materialize. Still he seems determined to leave the country.

"I'm making preparations to emigrate, because I don't want to be here in a country that is so narrow-minded," he said.