Export sales to EU customers have fallen by “record” levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a major study has revealed.
But the report, published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), suggest that export sales as a whole are rising as the nation edges towards recovery.
The figures – based on the responses of 2,800 businesses – are among the first to highlight the challenges British exporters are facing six months after the UK officially cut ties with the European Union.
According to the research, the percentage of traders reporting increased export sales in the EU in the second quarter of 2021 (April, May June) had risen to 27 per cent, compared to just one in five (20 per cent) the previous three months.
The proportion of firms reporting decreased export sales across the EU, meanwhile, fell from 41 per cent the previous quarter to 28 per cent – indicating a positive shift towards recovery.
But this still represents “a historically high proportion” of traders reporting net negative exports.
Reflecting on the figures, participants reported issues arising from Brexit – such as red tape, additional costs and new competition – as the “main cause of difficulties with export sales in the quarter”.
Commenting on the research, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, William Bain, said: “Six months into the new trading relationship, more than a quarter of goods exporting firms are experiencing continued falls in sales to EU customers. This is a historically high number.
“Our exporters are among the best problem-solvers and innovators in our economy, and yet our data demonstrates they are still struggling mightily to resolve the issues that they currently face.”
Make UK, the manufacturer’s organisation, added: “With major changes coming down the track, especially the imposition of import controls, it’s vital that the government works with business and the EU to smooth out critical issues such as customs procedures.
“Otherwise, there is a risk that the drop in exports to the bloc we have seen over the last couple of years will become structural and permanent.”
The research also reveals that the pandemic has hit business to consumer (B2C) exporters harder than business to business (B2B) traders. The statistics show that 38 per cent of B2C exporters reported a decrease in sales compared to just a fifth (21 per cent) of B2B firms. Both groups reported a similar uptick in sales, however, at 23 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.
Click here to access the BCC statistics.