Business bosses warn of 'substantial difficulties faced by firms adapting to new customs processes'

Fri 29 Jan 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

The UK’s five largest business groups have written to the government warning of the prospect of a “significant loss of business” due to new customs processes and checks following the UK’s departure from the EU customs union.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, leaders of the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, manufacturers’ group Make UK, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors voiced their concerns about potential problems at British ports following discussions with the minister yesterday.

After the meeting, Gove said that “some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship with the EU”.

Sizeable obstacles

In the letter, the business leaders warned that new customs processes were leading to “sizeable obstacles” for traders moving goods between the UK and the EU.

They wrote: “A range of problems were discussed, including the substantial difficulties faced by firms adapting to the new customs processes, sizeable obstacles to moving goods through the Dover-Calais route and the shortage of informed advice from both government and specialist advisors, alongside a number of others.”

Empty lorries

Their warning comes before freight flows between the UK and EU are expected to start returning to normal levels in the weeks ahead.

ITV News reports that the majority (65%) of lorries travelling from the UK to France are currently empty as truckers seek to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

Figures for the week ending 24 January showed that 3,400 trucks travelled from Dover to France via the Eurotunnel each day, down 30% on normal levels.

At the French border, only one in 10 Export Health Certificates – documentation required for food consignments – were correctly completed.

Slower delivery

New customs requirements following the end of the transition period are taking their toll on British manufacturers, survey data released last week shows.

Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs) from IHS Markit, reported in Reuters, show British factories have recently experienced a steeper increase in supplier delivery times than France, Germany, Japan, Australia and the US.


Over the next week, a national strike of French workers could further compound the delays faced by UK traders, Loadstar reports.  

Union CGT confirmed action was being coordinated with other unions for Thursday to protest against “disastrous government decisions” taken in tackling the pandemic.

There are fears the action could affect freight into the weekend when new driving restrictions for vehicles over 7.5 tonnes kick in.