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Is Brexit still causing problems a year on?

Diane Hall

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Brexit written over the UK

Believe it or not, it’s been almost a year since the UK left the European Union. Now that the initial furore surrounding Brexit has calmed down, how are exports faring?


Though I’ve only done a little research, it’s already clear that the answer to the above question depends on who you talk to.


With regards to the paperwork, most companies have now got a handle on it. It was clearly difficult to get used to all the new rules and regulation when Brexit began…the red tape some businesses encountered could have gone round the world twice.


The stock/delivery hold-ups arising from said paperwork issues—which constituted one of the biggest headaches at the outset—have calmed down, now that everyone is more clued up on what they’ve to do when exporting goods into Europe.


As with any development of this scale, some businesses will be winners, and some will be losers. Various businesses reported losing European clients at the beginning—some are still frustrated by this and have cut their cloth accordingly, whilst others have grabbed the baton and found clients in countries they didn’t trade with before to replace the custom they lost.


One sticking point seems to be sending goods to Northern Ireland. Despite the country being part of the UK geographically, their insistence on remaining part of the EU is still causing problems. Rather than causing hold-ups in these instances whilst paperwork surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol is figured out, it’s been easier for some companies not to bother exporting to them.


Change is frightening for a lot of us, and it seems this is part of the reason why Brexit isn’t in the news anymore. When the UK finally pulled away from Europe, any business that exported goods to the EU was worried about the changes and how Brexit would impact them. Whether that impact proved to be a positive or negative change, business owners feel better now that they’re used to the revised export process.

Empty Loading Dock Cargo Door

Empty Loading Dock Cargo Door

Despite this confidence, however, the paperwork could be set to change again. The UK was given 12 months’ grace to get onboard with all the new requirements when exporting goods to Europe, but from this January, there will be no excuse if the correct forms aren’t used. Feedback is that some European clients were less than helpful at the beginning of Brexit, and whilst border controllers were in place to help the transition go smoothly, businesses may see little sympathy if they don’t dot their ‘I’s and cross their ‘t’s.


Whilst this all plausibly sounds positive, the UK is still experiencing some of the more negative impacts from Brexit, like freedom of movement. One of the reasons people from the UK voted for leaving the EU was the hype around migrants and foreign workers taking UK jobs whilst people born here sat on the dole.


Once overseas workers saw that they would receive little benefit from grafting in the UK, they (unsurprisingly) returned home. What people expected would happen, following this exodus—i.e. those making up the UK’s unemployment statistics would rush to fill the gaps foreign workers left— didn’t occur. It seems there are other reasons why the UK unemployed exists. In their defence, this mass exodus showed up some of the horrible conditions in which some employers expected their staff to work in. For instance, it’s not just down to Brexit why we still have a shortage of truck drivers, as we explained here.


Some sectors feel that they’ve been completely overlooked in the transitional process—the fishing community and farmers are prime examples. There’s also evidence that the UK’s GDP is down, compared to pre-Brexit outputs. Overall, the country’s exporting has dropped by 14% over the last year; however, some of this is made up of food and drink destined for hotels and restaurants overseas. Hospitality and leisure sectors across the globe have been impacted by the pandemic and its various lockdowns—Brexit isn’t the only issue our country’s trading has had to deal with.


It’s difficult to say whether leaving the EU has been a better move than if we’d stayed put. It’s far too soon to say. And, though blockages and red tape have eased, now that the transition period is over, they may reappear as exporters get used to new papers, no leniency and more spot checks.

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