UK businesses are continuing to struggle with post-Brexit trading rules as export bosses warn that life outside the EU is becoming a ‘nightmare’ as fears grow that the Northern Ireland protocol could lead to a trade war with Brussels.
Exporting firms have warned that costs and red tape have seen doing business with the EU become more difficult, cut into margins and take too long.
One such exporter, Mark Brearley of kitchen equipment firm Kaymet, said to The Guardian that: “There’s a sense of, ‘Oh God, here we go again.
“There are loads of things I could’ve been doing if it wasn’t for these problems. We could do things that take us forward, rather than back.”
Owner of men’s fashion brand Rivet & Hide shared his own thoughts, adding that: “It’s really frustrating. I hear Johnson boasting about free trade and all the rest of it.
“I don’t know how he’s got the brass neck to talk about us doing free trade when basically he’s the one who’s imposed sanctions on our business.
“We were freely trading with the EU and now we’ve had tariffs imposed on us through our Brexit deals.”
Since 2019, key export categories including clothing, fruit and veg, cars, livestock and fish have all seen large decrease, with total exports down 8.3%.
However, there are signs that UK firms are beginning to look further afield to grow their international sales.
Data from the Food and Drink Federation found that exports to non-EU countries rose 16.2% in the first three months of the year, almost 11% higher than in Q1 2019.
Total non-EU exports of food and drink are now worth a record £2.3bn, with sales to Australia, Canada, India, Japan and the US showing the most growth. Beef exports rose 80%, with whiskey, chocolate and gin also seeing sustained growth.
Whilst food and drink exports to the EU still remain higher at £3bn, the rise in sales further afield may be a sign that UK firms are starting to broaden their horizons in the wake of Brexit.