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Half of UK exporters to EU reporting difficulties due to Brexit

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A line of lorries is seen during a trial between disused Manston Airport and the Port of Dover of how road will cope in case of a "no-deal" Brexit, Kent, Britain January 7, 2019. (Reuters photo)

Half of UK exporters to the European Union (EU) are having difficulties caused by Brexit red tape and border disruption one month on from the end of the transition period, a new poll shows.

According to a survey of 1,000 mainly small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it is difficult for companies to adapt to changes in the trading of goods.

When asked how they were coping with the new system, they said increased administration, costs, delays, and confusion about which rules to obey are among their major concerns, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

BCC director-general Adam Marshall warned that the UK is not likely to witness a strong economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic due to “changes at the border.”

“Trading businesses, and the UK's chances at a strong economic recovery, are being hit hard by changes at the border,” Marshall said.

“The late agreement of a UK-EU trade deal left businesses in the dark on the detail right until the last minute, so it's unsurprising to see that so many businesses are now experiencing practical difficulties on the ground as the new arrangements go live.”

Marshall went on to say that companies might have to stop selling their products and services to the bloc because of the new changes.

“For some firms these concerns are existential, and go well beyond mere 'teething problems'. It should not be the case that companies simply have to give up on selling their goods and services into the EU.”

This comes as reports show Amsterdam surpassed London as Europe’s largest sharing trading center in January, with the Netherlands taking up business lost from Britain since Brexit.

Marshall also warned that the situation could deteriorate if London introduces further checks in April and full customs checks on imports in July.

Meanwhile, a government spokesperson said there were no queues in Kent - a county in South East England - and added border disruption had been “minimal”.

“We will ensure businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe and to seize new opportunities as we strike trade deals with the world's fastest growing markets and explore our newfound regulatory freedoms.”

The volume of exports going through British ports to the EU countries dropped by 68 percent last month compared with January last year.

The dramatic fall has been reported to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) after a survey of its international members.

The Road Haulage Association's chief executive, Richard Burnett, told the Observer on Saturday that in addition to 68 percent reduction in exports, the organization had also found 65-75% of vehicles arriving from the EU, returning empty to the bloc.

The reduction is assumed to be due to a lack of goods, delays in the UK, and because British companies had halted exports to the continent.

On exports, lots of paperwork is required and according to Burnett, there is an urgent need to increase the number of customs agents to help firms with mountains of extra paperwork.

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