Brexit: Keith Prince discusses UK trade
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Only eight percent of the 1,000 firms polled by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) agreed the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) signed with the European Union was “enabling their business to grow or increase sales”. For UK exporters alone, just 12 percent agreed the trade deal was helping them, while more than two-thirds (71 percent) disagreed. When asked to comment on the specific advantage (for those that agreed) or disadvantage (for those that disagreed) of the trade deal, 320 cited a disadvantage.
These included the trade deal leading to rising costs for companies and their clients, and smaller firms not having enough time and money to deal with the bureaucracy it had introduced.
It had also put off EU customers from considering buying UK goods and services due to the perceived costs and complexities.
Just 59 firms put forward advantages they have seen from the UK’s trade deal with the EU.
These included the agreement allowing companies to continue to trade without significant change, encouraging firms to look at other global markets, and providing stability to allow firms to plan.
The latest findings follow BCC research in October 2021, which found six in 10 exporters were facing problems adapting to the changes from the TCA on goods trade.
But the Prime Minister’s political rivals have reacted furiously to the latest findings, launching stinging attacks against the Brexit deal he struck with the EU.
Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds branded the figures “extremely worrying”, and warned: “The Government have been asleep at the wheel and have shown a complete lack of support to help businesses who are seeking help.
“Business prosperity, job security and livelihoods depend on reliable supply chains. Ministers need to urgently listen to business and give them the support they need.”
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, the SNP’s Europe spokesperson, said: “This latest survey highlights once again that the Tory government’s extreme Brexit deal has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
“Brexit has prevented growth in the economy, cost billions of pounds, led to drastic fall in exports, and is now adding to the cost of living crisis.”
But a Government spokesperson has strongly defended the Brexit trade deal agreed with the EU, insisting it is beneficial to British firms and insisting sufficient support is being provided.
They said: “The Trade and Co-operation Agreement is the world’s biggest zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade deal.
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“It allows businesses in Britain to trade freely with Europe while also being able to seize new trading opportunities with countries around the world.
“We’ve always been clear that being outside the single market and the customs union would mean changes and that businesses would need to adapt to new processes.
“That is why we are ensuring that businesses get the support they need, including through the free-to-use Export Support Service.
“Goods exports to EU nations were four per cent higher last year compared with 2020.
“However, given the Covid-19 pandemic, global recession and supply chain disruption, it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions on the long-term impacts of our new trading relationship with the EU.”
BCC head of trade policy William Bain said of the latest findings from its report: “Nearly all of the businesses in this research have fewer than 250 employees and these smaller firms are feeling most of the pain of the new burdens in the TCA.
“Many of these companies have neither the time, staff or money to deal with the additional paperwork and rising costs involved with EU trade, nor can they afford to set up a new base in Europe or pay for intermediaries to represent them.
“But if both sides take a pragmatic approach, they could reach a new understanding on the rules and then build on that further.
“Accredited Chambers of Commerce support the UK Government’s ambition to massively increase the number of firms exporting.
“If we can free up the flow of goods and services into the EU, our largest overseas market, it will go a long way to realising that goal.”
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