Exports to EU down 68 per cent since Brexit, say UK hauliers

Michael Gove urged to give assistance by increasing the number of customs agents

File photo from December of lorries queuing at the Port of Dover in Kent.  Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

File photo from December of lorries queuing at the Port of Dover in Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

 

A UK survey of hauliers has found the volume of exports travelling from British ports to the EU fell 68 per cent last month compared with the same period last year.

The research by the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) prompted it to write to cabinet minister Michael Gove to call for assistance, particularly with increasing the number of customs agents from 10,000 to 50,000 to help firms with extra post-Brexit paperwork.

Chief executive Richard Burnett told The Observer the RHA had also found 65 per cent to 75 per cent of vehicles arriving from the EU were returning empty due to a lack of goods, hold-ups in the UK and because British companies had halted exports to the Continent.

A cabinet office spokeswoman said they “do not recognise the figure provided on exports”.

“Thanks to the hard work of hauliers and traders to prepare for change, disruption at the border has so far been minimal and freight movements are now close to normal levels, despite the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added.

Mr Burnett said he found it “deeply frustrating and annoying that ministers have chosen not to listen to the industry and experts”, who have consistently called for greater consultation by government.

He said Mr Gove had not responded in writing “pretty much every time we have written over the last six months”.

“He tends to get officials to start working on things. But the responses are a complete waste of time because they don’t listen to what the issues were that we raised in the first place,” Mr Burnett said.

The UK government spokeswoman said the cabinet office has “had intensive engagement with the road haulage industry for many months and we are still facilitating regular calls with representative groups.

“We will continue to work constructively with the RHA as we adjust to our new relationship with the EU and seize the opportunities of Brexit.”

The government offered a six-month grace period following Brexit, allowing the suspension of the full range of physical checks on imports until July.

On Thursday, former Tory chancellor Lord Lamont warned red tape linked to the Brexit deal had rendered most business between Britain and Northern Ireland uneconomic.

Two weeks earlier, the RHA said a 12-month grace period and urgent financial aid were needed to iron out problems with the post-Brexit Irish Sea trade border.

The UK government insisted “goods are flowing effectively” between Britain and Northern Ireland.

But Mr Burnett said on January 20th: “This is a financial precipice haemorrhaging money. “There needs to be financial intervention immediately.”–PA