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4 March, 2021

EU border red tape is disrupting UK manufacturers

01 February, 2021

The manufacturers’ group Make UK is calling for the Government to tackle the border delays being caused by complex paperwork since the UK left the European single market at the start of the year. A Make UK survey of 186 manufacturers has shown that 60% of them have experienced significant disruption at the UK’s borders with the EU since 1 January, with 61% suffering from supply chain disruptions either importing or exporting to or from the EU, and 32% having their supply chains impacted in both directions.

Make UK says that customs paperwork needs to be simplified urgently on both sides of the border, so that it can be completed and checked quickly before haulage journeys begin and companies can be reassured that their goods have a clear run to the end-customer.

The increase in paperwork and red tape at the borders has led to substantial delays, with many trucks left stranded across the Continent because of incorrect paperwork, it reports. Many businesses have stopped importing and exporting from the EU in a hope that things will improve, but this is having a serious commercial impact on companies already struggling because of the Covid pandemic.

The organisation says that extra red tape is being “heaped” on businesses as they struggle to prove the origin of their goods to qualify for zero tariffs. Some are finding the burden of proving origin so onerous that they are choosing to pay the tariffs rather than spend the additional time and money attempting to qualify for tariff-free access, “with serious financial ramifications”.

“Government needs to move quickly to get around the table with the EU to sort out ongoing delays at the border and rules of origin issues which are making business unworkable on both sides of the channel,” says Make UK CEO, Stephen Phipson.

“We are encouraged by recent constructive contact with Government to tackle these issues and that they looking to boost the number of customs agents,” he adds. “But finding a way to simplify customs declarations would mitigate against delays while an agreement on cumulation between the UK and the EU would mean that parts imported from regions outside the EU and the UK – like Japan and Turkey – can be counted towards local content. This would provide a much needed boost for industry as many more goods would qualify for zero tariff access.

Phipson: the UK Government needs to move quickly

Make UK reports that 61% of UK businesses regularly send employees to the EU to work and, despite some general provisions in the agreement, this travel will become more difficult and burdensome for them.

“The deal as it stands fails to provide for mutual recognition of professional qualifications which will pose a very significant problem for many industries as movement of key personnel to carry out work in the EU will much more restricted,” Phipson explains. “If a company wants to send a service engineer to repair a piece of equipment delivered from a UK company as part of the maintenance contract, they may not be able to carry out the service, as his/her UK qualifications won’t be recognised. There is also complex paperwork to be filled in to allow business travel.”

Finally, Make UK suggests that the government should fast-track the training of customs agents to smooth border flows. It should also encourage exporters and hauliers to work with industry to smooth out the current problems.

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