Monday 29 March 2021 6:41 am

Brexit: One in four small UK exporters halt EU sales

More than one in four small British exporters have stopped sending goods to the EU since the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January over frustrations about the amount of new red tape, according to a new survey.

A Federation of Small Businesses survey out today showed that 23 per cent of small UK businesses that exported to the EU in 2020 had temporarily stopped selling to the bloc, while 4 per cent had stopped for good.

The poll shows that 11 per cent of small exporters are also considering stopping all exports to the EU on a permanent basis.

It comes after recent trade figures showed that UK exports to the EU in January plummeted by 40 per cent, with an Institute of Directors survey also showing that one-in-five of its members who previously traded with the EU had stopped since 31 December.

The EU implemented full customs checks on things like agricultural goods and procedures after the UK left the single market and customs union on 31 December.

This has led to UK exporters needing to fill out lengthy paperwork and navigate new customs systems, which is turning some companies off selling to the EU and to lengthy delays at the border.

The Federation of Small Businesses survey found 70 per cent of importers and exporters had experienced delays when dealing with EU-based companies.

The federation’s national chair Mike Cherry said firms “that do business internationally are being hit with some incredibly demanding, unfamiliar paperwork”.

“Three months on from the end of the transition period, what we hoped would prove to be teething problems are in danger of becoming permanent, systemic ones,” he said.

“While larger firms have the resources and bandwidth to overcome them regardless, smaller traders are struggling, and considering whether exports are worth the effort anymore.”

Road Haulage Association head of public affairs Rod McKenzie told The Observer earlier this month that British exports to the EU will not recover until summer at the earliest, with the UK suffering from a lack of customs agents.

The industry estimated that the UK needed 30,000 customs agents, private operators that help with customs procedures, operating post-Brexit and that the country has fallen well short of the target.

“Judging by our own experience of customs agents, they are swamped with calls and turning away business, which is ridiculous when we have had four years to sort this out,” McKenzie said.