Sunday 7 February 2021 11:10 am

UK exports via sea to EU down 68 per cent since end of Brexit transition

UK exports through sea freight to the EU in January plummeted by 68 per cent compared to last year, according to new data from the UK’s lorry lobby.

Figures from the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which have been shown to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, also revealed that up to 75 per cent of lorries coming over from the EU are returning empty.

Read more: Government ‘in denial’ about post-Brexit fishing problems, say industry leaders

The main reasons for this were delays on the UK side or companies choosing to no longer export to the EU due to difficult new customs processes, according to The Observer.

The UK exported almost £300bn worth of goods to the EU in 2019, with the vast majority via sea and not by air.

RHA boss Richard Burnett told The Observer that he had also warned Gove that there is only about 10,000 customs agents – professionals that help companies export goods across borders – operating in the UK – one-fifth of what is required post-Brexit.

“I find it deeply frustrating and annoying that ministers have chosen not to listen to the industry and experts,” he said.

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“Michael Gove is the master of extracting information from you and giving nothing back.

“He responds on WhatsApp and says he got the letter but no written response comes. Pretty much every time we have written over the last six months he has not responded in writing.”

UK exporters in some industries, particularly agricultural and fishing, have faced disruption since the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union on 1 January.

Many firms have found the new paperwork and red tape difficult to manage, while there has also been difficulties with new IT customs systems.

A YouGov survey earlier this week showed 42 per cent of British exports had been negatively affected by Brexit so far.

Read more: Almost half of UK exporters hurt by Brexit, says new survey

A government spokesperson said: “We do not recognise the figure provided on exports. Thanks to the hard work of hauliers and traders to prepare for change, disruption at the border has so far been minimal and freight movements are now close to normal levels, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will continue to work constructively with the RHA as we adjust to our new relationship with the EU and seize the opportunities of Brexit.”

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