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Number of UK firms exporting goods to EU dropped by a third

Extra costs and paperwork associated with end of Brexit transition period blamed for many smaller firms giving up selling to EU during 2021

Since Brexit exporting goods from the UK to the EU no longer within the single market Pic: rawf8 / Shutterstock

The number of UK businesses exporting goods to the EU fell by a third in 2021 compared to 2020 – the year before the end of the Brexit transition period, figures from the UK tax authorities show. 

In 2021, only 18,357 reported exports to the EU, compared to 27,321 in the year before. 

This is thought to be related to extra paperwork and costs, including various declarations, import VAT, and health certificates for items containing meat, milk, fruit and vegetables. 

It is smaller businesses that are affected in particular, as they struggle to find the time, or to afford outside consultants such as customs brokers, to deal with new requirements. 

When the UK was in the EU, sending goods to a country such as France was simply a ‘movement’ of goods within the single market, similar to sending them domestically. 

A spokesman for HMRC told UK media that caution is needed in comparing trade data before and after January 2021, as the way they collect data has changed since the UK left the EU. The spokesman added that the figures related to only one subsection of trade. 

UK firms can report any ‘export barriers’ at: great.gov.uk/ report-trade-barrier. Only two are currently shown on this site in a list of known barriers with France, in the sports and technology sectors. 

Related links

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La Poste claims improvement to custom charge issue for foreign parcels

Trade body resilient as post-Brexit customs controls start EU to UK

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