Brexit impact felt by UK firms trading with EU bloc

Almost one in five (23%) of UK exporters have temporarily halted sales to EU customers, according to a survey of 1,483 businesses by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Its research also found that 4% have already decided to stop selling into the bloc permanently after new trading rules took effect at the start of this year, while 11% exporters are considering halting sales to Europe permanently.

The same proportion (11%) have established, or are considering establishing, a presence within an EU country to ease their exporting processes. A similar number (9%) are thinking about securing, or are already using, warehousing space in the EU or Northern Ireland (NI) for the same purpose.

Small importers have also been hit hard by new paperwork, though fewer than one in five have temporarily suspended purchases from the EU (17%), the survey found.

The majority (70%) of importers and/or exporters have suffered shipment delays when moving goods around the EU. One in three (32%) have lost goods in transit, and an even greater proportion (34%) have had goods held indefinitely at EU border crossings. Of those that have experienced delays, a third (36%) have suffered hold-ups that lasted more than two weeks.

Following the findings, FSB is urging the government to:

  • Increase the threshold at which tariffs and taxes for imports and exports kick-in to £1,000.
  • Closely monitor the roll-out of the SME Brexit Support Fund, ensuring small businesses are aware that they can apply for funding to access a range of trading advice, training and technology, and not exclusively that relating to customs and intermediaries.
  • Strike ambitious new free trade agreements (FTA), which include dedicated small business chapters, with fast-growing economies around the world, including the US.

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