UK exports to the European Union through ports fell 68% in January 2021 compared to the same dates last year, according to data from the Road Transport Association (RHA). Carriers have written to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove demanding an urgent solution to the serious problems affecting small and medium-sized businesses since the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1. It is incredibly frustrating and annoying that the government has chosen not to listen to the industry and the experts, Richard Burnett, executive director of the RHA, told The Observer weekly, noting that up to 75% of trucks leaving the UK with cargo, they return empty to avoid customs retentions.

“The last month has been like the fifth circle of Dante’s hell for importers and exporters,” denounced for his part Ben Fletcher, strategic director of Make UK, which represents British manufacturers. “60% of companies that said they were Brexit ready are being disrupted and the impact is reaching supply chains. There is growing frustration and anger that things cannot be moved, with all the bureaucratic hurdles and the necessary paperwork,” warns Fletcher. And the level of support we have received from the government is very low.

The statements of the ‘premier’ Boris Johnson, claiming that the problems that companies are suffering from Brexit are equivalent to the “pain when teeth come out (teething problems) has caused an angry reaction by the business class, which denounces the lack of preparation and “structural problems. Johnson boasted of having struck a no-tariff, no-quota” deal, and exporters are nonetheless running into a tide of taxes, certificates of origin, and customs declarations to get around the English Channel. The Department of International Trade has even advised companies to open branches in the European Union to avoid paperwork: more than 500 have decided to partially relocate their operations to the Netherlands, chosen as their preferred landing place.

Carriers also accuse Johnson of having breached his promises and having only 10,000 customs agents, compared to 50,000 promised, further slowing down the process. However, the Government assures that the disruption in the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel has been minimal since the beginning of the year, something that exporters attribute precisely to the spectacular drop in the flow of goods with the continent.
According to official data, 43% of exports from the United Kingdom in 2019 were destined for the European Union (335,000 million euros), while 52% of imports came from 27 (426,000 million euros).

The fall in January 2021 concerning the previous year can also be attributed to the coronavirus and the accumulation of orders in the final stretch of the year that caused the anticipated collapse in the ports. Boris Johnson himself has, however, recognized the existence of serious supply problems in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the year and as a result of the entry into force of the Irish Protocol, which creates the closest thing to an internal customs office within the United Kingdom (for avoiding going back to a “hard” border on the island).

Johnson has warned that he is prepared to suspend “parts of the Brexit agreement” if the problems in Northern Ireland are not solved. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove will hold crisis talks with the Vice President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, in the coming days, and will ask for the extension until 2023 of a “grace period” to avoid customs checks between Great Britain and Ireland. from the North. The lack of supplies in supermarkets has led to tensions such as threats and intimidation against inspectors in the port of Belfast, who were absent from their posts last week. The chief commissioner of Northern Ireland, Simon Byrne, has recognized “the feverish atmosphere” caused by the graffiti and the patrols of unionist militants and has called for calm to the population.