Hauliers express fury as exports to EU dropped 68% since Brexit

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
CHERBOURG, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 04: Hauliers line up as they wait to board a ferry on February 04, 2021 in Cherbourg, France. Haulier traffic is expected to see some 9,000 trucks by the end of January compared to 3,000 in January 2020. All companies (Irish Ferries, Stena Line and Brittany Ferries) have increased their supply to and from the port of Cherbourg. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Hauliers line up as they wait to board a ferry on February 04, 2021 in Cherbourg, France. Haulier traffic is expected to see some 9,000 trucks by the end of January compared to 3,000 in January 2020. Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

British exports to the European Union fell by a staggering 68% in January this year compared with the same time period last year, a study has shown.

According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA) 65-75% of vehicles arriving from the EU were returning to the bloc empty.

The organisation said that this was because of a lack of goods, delays in Britain, and because UK firms had stopped exporting to the bloc.

RHA’s chief executive Richard Burnett told the Observer that it was “deeply frustrating and annoying that ministers have chosen not to listen to the industry and experts” who have consistently called for more government deliberation.

The figures, based on a survey of the RHA's members, was detailed in a letter the RHA sent to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Monday pleading for "urgent intervention" to support critical supply chains.

Burnett said he didn’t get a reply from Gove, despite the pleas for help.

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

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The chief executive who largely blamed Brexit for the decline told the newspaper: “Since transition, we have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the devastating consequences these changes are having but it is very clear that government are not doing enough to address them.”

He did however point out that he didn’t believe that the coronavirus pandemic to blame for the dramatic drop in exports.

"For clarity, the current situation should not be considered a consequences of COVID. If anything, the absence of the pandemic would have made it worse, because volumes would be greater," Burnett said.

Additionally the organisation called for the number of customs agents to be increased to assist businesses with the Brexit paperwork. It said that the current number of about 10,000 agents is only “about a fifth” of what is necessary.

Two week age, the RHA said a 12-month grace period and urgent financial aid were needed to iron out problems with the post-Brexit Irish Sea trade border.

But, the government has insisted that “goods are flowing effectively” between the UK and Northern Ireland.

Yahoo Finance has contacted the RHA for a further response and Michael Gove’s office for comment.

Britain’s Brexit deal with the bloc — agreed on Christmas Eve — secures tariff-free and quota-free trading between the pair.

Under the agreement, food and goods imported into the UK from third countries and then shipped to the EU will face charges. The deal also introduces new customs checks and paperwork at the border.

The trading agreement between the pair includes a one year waiver on declarations on “rules of origin” conditions, which state how much of an item needs to be locally made in order to avoid tariffs.

Under the terms, tariffs will be charged on goods that do not meet rules of origin requirements. But, the new Brexit system and sheer volumes of the paperwork is said to have caused confusion and delays at borders since 1 January.

UK businesses will need to submit 215 more customs forms a year after Brexit — which could cost £12bn ($16.4bn), according to government calculations published last July.

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