Brexit paperwork increasingly alienating businesses

Trade numbers show significant Brexit impact

Marks and Spencer said last week that post-Brexit rules and ‘excessive paperwork’ has forced it to cut about 800 lines from its stores in the Republic. Photograph: Charlotte Ball/PA Wire

Marks and Spencer said last week that post-Brexit rules and ‘excessive paperwork’ has forced it to cut about 800 lines from its stores in the Republic. Photograph: Charlotte Ball/PA Wire

 

Maybe it will all work out in the end, but at the moment it’s looking messy and the politics increasingly fraught.

Last week, Britain postponed a range of post-Brexit checks on imports from the European Union for a second time, much to the consternation of Brussels.

The new border controls – mainly relating to food – would have added a further tier of bureaucracy at a time when trade is already being limited by increased paperwork.

Ireland is a good yardstick for what’s happening to British trade generally. Central Statistics Office numbers, published on Monday, show goods imports from Britain to the Republic are down 32 per cent or nearly €3 billion since the start of the year.

While there may be several factors contributing to the reduction, the challenges of complying with customs requirements appear to be the main one.

Marks and Spencer (M&S) said last week that post-Brexit rules and “excessive paperwork” has forced it to cut about 800 lines from its stores in the Republic, roughly 20 per cent of its total range of goods here. Irish exports to Britain rose 26 per cent to €8.2 billion for the same period.

Brexit also seems to have displaced a certain portion of Britain-Northern Ireland trade on to the island of Ireland. The CSO show imports from Northern Ireland to the Republic have increased by €800 million or 60 per cent to €2.1 billion when compared with the same period in 2020, while exports from the Republic to the North are up 45 per cent.

The figures come on the back of data earlier this month showing Britain’s trade with the EU fell sharply in July with exports £1.7 billion lower than in July 2018 and imports falling by £3 billion. 2018 is viewed as the pre-Brexit norm.

The decline was driven by a falloff in trade of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, which are in the crosshairs of separate regulatory approval regimes post Brexit.

For the moment, all we can say is that trade flows in and out of the UK have been disrupted by the new arrangements. Whether this is permanent or temporary remains to be seen.

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