The volume of exports heading into the EU from British ports has fallen almost 70% as the immediate realities of Brexit take hold.
The data, compiled by the Road Haulage Association, compared exports data via ferry and rail onto the continent in January this year compared to 2020. A letter from the association to Michael Gove stated that recent warnings before the end of the transition period, especially around the lack of customs officials, had been largely ignored, despite a new mountain of paperwork.
It said that the shortfall in exports was largely due to EU vehicles returning empty as UK companies had either temporarily or permanently halted exports to the EU.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said of Gove that: “Michael Gove is the master of extracting information from you and giving nothing back. He responds on WhatsApp and says he got the letter but no written response comes.
“Pretty much every time we have written over the last six months he has not responded in writing. He tends to get officials to start working on things. But the responses are a complete waste of time because they don’t listen to what the issues were that we raised in the first place.”
Whilst a combination of Brexit and the pandemic will have led to some reduction in exporting activity, trade experts fear that worse could be over the horizon.
Chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, Shane Brennan, noted that: “As we look to April through to July what really worries me is we face a perfect storm.
“We will have an economy looking to come out of lockdown at the same time as the UK is imposing a range of import controls on EU business that may be no more prepared than UK businesses have been – and possibly less so – and a supply chain that is incredibly reluctant to service the UK. The full Brexit crisis that we were predicting could well come into effect at that point.”
The news of the sudden drop in exports to the EU comes as hundreds of companies make moves to switch operations to countries inside the EU.
Reported by The Observer, data from the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency reported that by January 1st this year, over 500 businesses with UK connection had already made inroads into setting up branches, depots or warehouses in the Netherlands alone. The majority cited ‘Brexit-related reasons’.