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Business leaders warn of UK-EU trade ‘obstacles’

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Five of the UK’s largest business groups, including leaders of the British Chambers of Commerce, have raised their concerns about problems at the UK’s ports. In a letter seen by the Guardian, the business groups have warned the government of a “significant loss of business” due to new customs processes and checks following the UK’s exit from the EU customs union.

After the meeting with the group, Michael Gove said that “some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship with the EU”.

‘Sizeable obstacles’ for businesses

The business leaders have warned that new customs processes were leading to “sizeable obstacles” for the movement of goods between the UK and the EU.

The group stated that: “A range of problems were discussed, including the substantial difficulties faced by firms adapting to the new customs processes, sizeable obstacles to moving goods through the Dover-Calais route and the shortage of informed advice from both government and specialist advisors, alongside a number of others.”

Journeys with no goods

ITV News reports that a large proportion (65%) of lorries travelling from the UK to France are currently empty as hauliers try to avoid unnecessary paperwork. Trade flows are predicted to return to normal, but the current situation is a cause for concern for many businesses.

For the week ending 24th of January, figures show that 3,400 trucks travelled from Dover to France via the Eurotunnel each day. This is a 30% decrease when compared with normal levels.

Worryingly, only one in ten Export Health Certificates at the French border were found to be correctly completed. Export Health Certificates are needed so that food and animal derived products can be shipped across borders.

Delivery times slow significantly

New customs requirements following the end of the transition period are having an impact on UK manufacturers, survey data released last week shows.

Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs) from IHS Markit, reported in Reuters, show that British factories have experienced a steep increase in supplier delivery times when compared with counterparts in France, Germany, Japan, Australia and the US.

French strikes to cause further delays

To add to delays, French unions confirmed that strike action is planned for Thursday to protest “disastrous government decisions” taken in tackling the pandemic.

There are fears the action could affect freight into the weekend when new driving restrictions for vehicles over 7.5 tonnes begin.

Do you need help with any of the above? Take a look how the Chamber is supporting members and customers:

Source: Institute of Export & International Trade, British Chambers of Commerce

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