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Trade and Cooperation with the EU: Six months on

Last week Make UK published a new report – ‘Trade and Cooperation with the EU: Six months on’. The report explores the experiences of manufacturers in the first 6 months of this year and since the Trade and Cooperation Agreement was agreed at the end of last year.

Key findings include:

  • 96% of companies have faced challenges since the start of the year with new trading environment
  • Nearly half (47%) had difficulty with customs processes initially. This has eased as companies’ understanding of the new rules improved
  • But over a third (36%) – mainly small and medium sized companies – are still struggling with the new customs procedures and paperwork
  • More than a quarter (29%) say demonstrating the origin of their products is a challenge
  • Business travel remains almost completely untested as international travel beings to reopen for business bringing with it critical risk for companies who still do not understand the business travel rules for the different EU member states
  • 86% of manufacturers want Government to work with the EU to ease the difficulties around export processes and customs formalities
  • Regulation key to manufacturers is now solely in the control of UK legislators. The UK Government must decide how this sovereignty is used to benefit manufacturers in the UK; the majority of manufacturers favour cooperation with the EU


At the beginning of 2021 manufacturers saw the greatest single change in how they trade and do business in the EU in more than four decades. While businesses had prepared for the change, the majority still experienced significant disruption.

The report does not look at the overall trade volumes but, rather examines the impact of the changes to the trade relationship; what has been challenging; what has improved and what obstacles remain for manufacturers. We have chosen not to look at trade volumes because of the overlapping impact that the Covid-19.

The report shows that some 96% of manufacturers have reported challenges in dealing with the new trading environment. Being compliant with the new customs paperwork and procedures was the initial challenge, but this has eased as companies’ understanding of the new processes has vastly improved. Our report finds that the experience of the manufacturing sector has been mixed in the first six months of 2021. While there are reasons for optimism that some of the processes are becoming more ‘business as usual’, some issues remain. We have seen some predictability return to European trade, albeit at a higher cost and with longer delivery times. However, while this is true for almost half of firms (47%), over one third are still reporting on-going challenges with customs, primarily small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The pressure is now easing for some. However, many companies, particularly SMEs, are still experiencing challenges.

Full Report Here

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