UK exporters and importers increasingly face challenges

February 16, 2021 by
Sanne Leenders

A growing number of UK retailers and wholesalers experience challenges finding their ability to import and export. This is as a result of transport costs, customs duties and disruption at the border. The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest challenges are most acutely felt between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The customs declarations and checks are now in place as part of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This came into force alongside the EU/UK post-Brexit free trade agreement. Goods at risk of entering the EU single market via Northern Ireland have to pay EU tariffs, where relevant.

Transport costs led to challenges

Just over a third (34%) of businesses questioned for the ONS Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey between January 25 and February 7. These businesses said they had previously exported or imported goods in the last year. In addition, they said transport costs had led to challenges exporting their goods compared to normal for the time of year. Meanwhile 30% reported an impact on importing. That’s up from 25% who said they were having trouble exporting and 28% who cited importing difficulties because of transport costs.

Customs levies and duties presented an export challenge for 26% and an import challenge for 26%. Furthermore, disruption at the UK borders had an impact for 25% of those exporting and for 35% of those importing.

Sending fewer products to Northern Ireland

38% said they were sending fewer products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Including 44% of retailers and wholesale businesses and 35.1% of manufacturers. Almost half (49.6%) of all businesses said they were sending the same amount – falling to 43.1% among retailers and wholesalers. Some 2.1% those in the retail and wholesale category say they have stopped sending goods to Northern Ireland altogether.

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