A comprehensive new survey of UK businesses has exposed the reality of trade with Europe post-Brexit, pointing to ongoing damage to the UK economy caused by the split.
A whopping 94 per cent of respondents to the European Movement poll said leaving the single market and customs union has had a negative effect, while hundreds reported having to reduce their workforce hours, make staff redundant, or even close entirely.
Companies across sectors including engineering, agriculture, hospitality and finance reported they had lost business in the EU, and been made uncompetitive by new red-tape.
More than half of respondents said new red tape had made trading with the EU increasingly difficult, calling it ‘the single biggest obstacle’ to doing business with our largest trading partner.
A further 40 per cent highlighted problems with finding staff since the loss of Freedom of Movement.
Sir Nick Harvey, CEO of European Movement UK, said: “This research shows just how difficult trading with the EU has become for British businesses. Many we have talked to have either cut down their exports into the bloc, or stopped them entirely, citing new costs, increased red tape, and diminishing confidence from EU businesses in UK suppliers. The voices of our small and medium businesses are not being heard, and times are harder than ever.
“Their stories are the ugly truth of trading for UK business after exiting the EU.”
Hugh Chapman, who runs Long Mynd Cider in Bishops Castle, Shropshire, said he had a healthy network of suppliers around Europe before Brexit, but the administration now involved in buying and distributing products mean most of his clients are “no longer interested”.
“It’s economically impossible to trade with Europe at present.”
Carol, meanwhile, owned a bespoke lingerie business in the South West, but was forced to close her business due to import issues related to Brexit.
She said: “I did everything I could to prepare for Brexit. The reality of sending garments to the EU was a nightmare.
“I had goods that spent ages in transit and were then returned for ‘incorrect customs information’.
“The business was losing money, so I decided to close. Brexit was the final nail in the coffin.”