Brussels (Brussels Morning) British haulers claim UK exports to the EU have dropped 68% as a result of trade disruptions between Britain and the European continent that have occurred since the Brexit transition period ended on 1 January, Reuters reports.
International members at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), a trade body representing haulers, reported a 68% fall in exports in the month of January. “I find it deeply frustrating and annoying that ministers have chosen not to listen to the industry and experts,” RHA head Richard Burnett declared.
The British government, on the other hand, vehemently rejects the claims and insists that freight is moving at 95% or even 100% of pre-Brexit capacity on “some days”.
“We don’t recognise these figures at all,” a Cabinet Office spokesperson told The Observer in response to the RHA’s estimates of export shrinkage. “We know there are some specific issues and we are working with businesses to resolve them.”
The government claims that there are no queues at the Short Straits and that the “disruption at the border has so far been minimal”, emphasizing that freight movements are now close to normal levels, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Part of the RHA’s argument is that, in many instances, lorries are travelling back empty from the UK to the EU – which means they are not required to show any papers or face any other bureaucratic obstacles on their return trips.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove admitted last week that there are serious problems with the operation of the new Irish Sea border, with supermarkets in Northern Ireland facing restocking problems because of the customs checks now in force between the province and mainland Britain.
Gove asked the EU for an extension of the grace period for Northern Ireland, but was rebuffed by EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, who claimed that the existing Brexit treaty provides sufficient tools for the United Kingdom to resolve the matter on its own.