Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) conducted a survey at the end of last year to ‘take the temperature of businesses’ as they looked back on the first year after the end of the Transition Period and considered the next tranche of changes in the UK’s trading relationship with the European Union (EU) (these came into force at the start of 2022).
Overall, a picture emerges of British business having worked hard to get to grips with the changes, and largely succeeding, but lacking confidence and knowledge about what is still to come. For example, when asked how confident they were trading with the EU in a post-Brexit environment, 70% of respondents indicated that they were confident trading with the EU (9.8% being very confident and 59.2% saying quite confident).
Just under two-thirds (64.4%) of businesses surveyed said that they had undertaken additional training to adjust to the new post-Brexit trade rules and processes, while 74.7% confirm having made Brexit-related changes to their import and export arrangements.
Many businesses have had to call on external support or hire additional staff to deal with new trade rules and processes: 47.1% had sought external support in the shape of a customs consultant or a freight forwarder, while 21.1% had hired additional staff to deal with the new rules.
However, when asked in December how confident they were of a trouble-free transition to new import requirements coming into force on 1 January 2022, 50.3% of respondents indicated a lack of confidence (not very confident 34.1%, not confident at all 16.2%); and while 40% of respondents reported some confidence in the process, only 4.7% were very confident and 36.2% quite confident.
Speaking after the survey, Marco Forgione — director general of the IOE&IT — said: “The past year has been a period of adaptation for UK businesses engaging in trade with the EU. Confidence in exporting to the EU has grown over the past 12 months, as companies have undertaken more training and education. The IOE&IT has been supporting businesses through 2021, delivering technical support, guidance and — most importantly — training, to ensure British exporters can trade both confidently and compliantly.”
As from 1 January this year, customs declarations and full import controls applied to goods entering Great Britain from the EU. Any goods passing across the border need to have a customs declaration completed and accepted by HMRC systems. Goods movements are risk assessed and goods could undergo physical and documentary checks at an inland border facility.
The UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement (TCA) allows importers to benefit from zero tariffs (or customs duties) on goods; however exporters, need to provide evidence that the goods originate in either the UK or EU (and demonstrate that goods meet the rules of origin) for the zero tariffs to apply.