83% of local businesses find EU exports more difficult since 1 January

The Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce has released the results of the latest Quarterly Economic Survey, in partnership with Bishop Fleming, outlining business performance in Q2 2021. To read the full report, click here.

The focus of this quarter’s report was international trade. We asked a series of questions about how businesses have found importing and exporting with the EU since January and what their future trading plans look like with the EU and the rest of the world.

83% of exporters and 77% of importers have found trading with the EU more difficult since 1 January. The most common difficulty reported was the need for customs declarations for goods, which 81% of exporters and 78% of importers cited as a problem.

According to the Office for National Statistics, Q1 2021 was the first quarter since records began that imports of goods from non-EU countries were higher than from EU countries (UK trade – Office for National Statistics, 2021). The factors likely to have caused this were short-term trade disruption related to the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement, for example, challenges with supply chains, custom documentation and increased paperwork on goods entering and leaving the EU.

When we asked businesses about their future international trade plans it was encouraging to find that most are aiming to increase trade. 51% of businesses are planning to increase trade with the EU and 69% are planning to increase trade with the rest of the world. Only a small proportion, 13%, are planning to reduce trade levels with the EU despite the difficulties currently being faced.

The report more broadly showed a significant increase in sales over the last quarter. 48% of businesses experienced increased domestic sales in Q2 2021, compared to 29% in Q1 2021. There was a similar increase in overseas trade where 37% of businesses experienced increased sales, compared to 17% last quarter.

With continued restrictions on international travel, the recovery of the overseas market will be dependent on vaccination programs, return of international business travel, new Free Trade agreements with non-EU countries as well as co-operation between member states to help minimise short, medium and long term disruption to challenges aligned with supply chains, increased documentation and shortage of raw materials.

There is clear evidence that many firms across Herefordshire and Worcestershire are still facing challenges when importing and exporting to the EU. These challenges have been highlighted to local and national government, which has seen the Chamber secure a roundtable event with Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, to give Members the opportunity to lobby ministers on challenges regarding International trade. To book a place on the event, click here.