Big fall in businesses exporting to EU ‘caused by Brexit red tape’

The number of UK businesses exporting goods to the EU fell 33 per cent to 18,357 in 2021, from 27,321 in 2020, data from HMRC shows.

Industry experts said the fall is due to the extra red tape UK businesses must now comply with when exporting to the EU.

They say they are really worrying numbers and show the scale of the difficulties UK businesses now face in exporting their products to the EU.

Lost opportunities for growth

Sources said that businesses are not getting enough support from the Government to navigate the post-Brexit trading minefield.

They believe a lot of SMEs can’t afford professional advice to cope with Brexit-related red tape. Many are likely to have decided trading with the EU is not worth the cost.

There were warnings that fewer UK companies exporting to the EU will result in lost opportunities for growth and expansion in Europe.

Problems have been continuing at Dover where ‘Brexit scenarios’ had contributed to delays according to the head of the British Ports Association.

Chief executive Richard Ballantyne said the traffic was mainly down to the suspension of P&O ferries sailing after it sacked 800 members of staff, but he pointed to Brexit bureaucracy as another factor. 

Ferries suspension a major factor

Speaking to Sky News, he said: “There’s still congestion. P&O Ferries is out of service at the moment, which is probably the main cause of all the congestion – coupled with one or two other little incidents, and other Brexit scenarios.”

Problems with a key IT system for post-Brexit customs checks had contributed to traffic chaos around Dover, where thousands of commercial lorries had been stuck in queues.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the HMRC was “continuing to have issues” with its new GVMS system for customs declarations needed by hauliers following Britain’s exit from the EU.

But an update from HMRC was set to alleviate the problem this week as the tax authority said:

“We can confirm that the continuity plan that was in place over the weekend has now been lifted. The Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) is now fully operational, and you’ll need a Goods Movement References (GMRs) for all movements using GVMS.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused whilst we investigated the issue.”

What has been causing delays?

Hauliers have said it has been taking 15 to 20 minutes for each driver to clear checks needed since full customs controls came into force at the beginning of January.

Last month The Independent news website revealed that the Government is exploring a delay to new controls on imports set to come in July 2022 because of growing alarm over the cost of living crisis.

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