One month after transition from the EU: how has the UK adapted to new trade rules?

Mon 1 Feb 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

One month after the transition period ended and the advent of the UK’s free trade deal with the EU, the government believes it has avoided "significant border disruption" following the introduction of new border controls. 

iNews reports that Whitehall officials do not expect their own worst-case scenario of 7,000 trucks queueing for two days to cross through the GB:EU border to come to pass. 

Free movement

New government data suggests trucks are moving freely through Kent and the Port of Dover. Trader preparedness is higher than expected by officials, with an average of only 2-3% of hauliers being turned away from the port last week with incorrect documentation.

This has possibly been helped by the decision of some hauliers to avoid carrying goods between the UK and EU, with the Guardian reporting traffic is down by more than a third.  

Figures from logistics data platform Transporeon put the volume of goods moving between Great Britain and the EU at 38% lower in the third week of 2021 compared with 2020.

Irish market

The Times and Politico report that goods shipments between GB and Ireland have halved, while Ireland-France freight  by-passing the GB landbridge  has doubled. 

Since 1 January there have been nearly 17,500 freight vehicle movements into Ireland.

Politico reported that with an average of 45 trucks per vessel, according to the office of Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Micheál Martin, ferries are running at less than a quarter of their 200 HGV capacity.

Meanwhile, Rosslare Europort has seen a fivefold increase in traffic direct from Europe, according to the Irish Times

New figures from the Irish port that is closest to continental Europe shows a 446% increase in freight volumes.  

Make UK survey

In a survey of Make UK members, the majority (60%) said they were ready for the new rules, reported the Guardian.

However these companies are now experiencing disruption and “finding supply chains significantly impacted”, Make UK policy director Ben Fletcher said.

Most affected sectors

The FT has run the rule over the sectors facing major impacts from Brexit. 

Agriculture and fishing

Fresh produce cannot be stockpiled and requires health certificates, placing it at the sharp end of the new trading arrangements.

The National Sheep Association said new paperwork added up to £1.20 per lamb sent to the EU.

Farmers have also complained they are being undercut by cheap EU imports because of the British government’s decision not to impose full border checks on imports from the EU until July.

UK consumers buying EU goods

Several major logistics companies, including DHL, DPD and DB Schenker, were forced to suspend cross-border delivery services as they adjusted to new customs paperwork and other bureaucracy, such as VAT on goods worth more than £135.

“There is no policy fix for this,” said William Bain of the British Retail Consortium, adding that the new requirements were "here to stay".

Small businesses

Media has hoovered up stories of SMEs having to adapt to the new trading relations with the EU.

A high profile addition to complainants was former PM David Cameron’s wife Samantha who said that her fashion business was finding post-Brexit trading with the EU “challenging and difficult”.

Cameron championed the UK holding a referendum on EU membership in June 2016.