One of the joys of living in Norfolk is that if we decide we want to buy our foods away from the supermarkets, we are spoilt for choice.  

From the rich diversity of offerings on Norwich Market to farm shops such as Goodies Food Hall in Pulham Market or Walsingham Farm Shop, via a plethora of independent delis, it is easy for us to spend our money with knowledgeable, independent retailers who can tell us exactly where our food has come from.

Maybe it is because these kind of small-scale businesses can’t afford to buy influence through political donations that the government seems to be doing everything it can to bury such entrepreneurs under red tape.

It is strange, because the current party in power has always professed itself to be a champion of simplifying matters for businesses, and it also promised us a Brexit which would tear up regulation.  

But for small food and drink businesses, the exact opposite is happening.  And in many cases, it is endangering their very existence.

It would be a tragedy if the burden of bureaucracy resulted in the only place we could source our food from was greedy corporate giants – but this is unfortunately the direction we are heading.

Many of those small retailers rely on the frictionless importing of speciality foods from the rest of Europe.  Those who advocated Brexit told us this would remain simple once we were no longer members of the EU.  But they lied.

At the end of this month, the government is finally introducing – with just 27 days notice – Brexit import checks, which means those importing food face a mountain of new red tape which simply didn’t exist before.  

Already they have to deal with phytosanitary certificates, plant passports, import licences and health certificates; from next month they will also have to pay a ‘common user charge’ of £145 per consignment.

This charge is the same whether you are importing a whole truckload or a single cheese, so guess who will be most impacted by the charge – and it’s not big business.  The result will be that small-scale food retailers will find it practically impossible to stock the range of products we have come to enjoy.  

In fact, even if they were somehow able to absorb the swingeing extra costs, many European exporters are looking at the new system and deciding that the UK is simply not worth the bother.  It’s hard to blame them, when there are 27 other countries which have not made the self-harming decision to uncouple themselves from their biggest market.

Alongside this comes another blow in the food and drink sector, this time entirely home-grown.

Next February, a new system of taxing alcoholic drinks comes into force, and if you are a wine drinker, I’m afraid it’s bad news.

Our supposedly bureaucracy-hating government has decided to replace a system which had a single rate of duty for all still wine with an abv of between 5.6pc and 15pc with a head-scratchingly complicated new regime which will have 30 – yes, 30 – different bands, depending on the alcohol content of the wine.

Naturally the result will be a huge increase in tax on most of the wine we actually like to drink.

But apart from that, it is yet again introducing extra unnecessary complexity, which will hit small retailers the hardest.  Some independent wine merchants are saying they will need to employ an extra person simply to account for the different duty on each bottle they sell – a cost which in many cases will bankrupt them.

It's not like wine is an industrial product where the level of alcohol can be controlled.  It is dependent on so many unconnected factors including weather, soil and the natural yeasts on the grape; even two batches of the same wine from the same vineyard can vary in alcoholic content by as much as 0.5pc.

These are just two of the endless bureaucratic assaults on small, independent food and drink retailers which are starting to threaten their very existence.  And they are entirely self-inflicted; no-one has forced these measures on us.

The current government’s 2019 manifesto promised that when it came to regulation, ‘We always consider the needs of small businesses when devising new rules’; meanwhile, the Leave manifesto for the Brexit referendum pledged that ‘Trade with the EU will involve minimal bureaucracy’.  

Sadly, it is our local independent retailers who are suffering the most from the fact that these were out-and-out lies.