'This is worse than No Deal' - how Yorkshire businesses are struggling with new trade rules under Brexit deal

Concern is mounting that many Yorkshire businesses will abandon international trade in the face of increased bureaucracy and administration caused by the UK’s divorce from the European Union.

More than a month into the new trade deal thrashed out between the UK Government and the EU, The Yorkshire Post can reveal that many firms in the area are being plagued by problems with supplies and some are considering moving operations to the Continent.

While Yorkshire ports have seen minimal disruption their counterparts in the south of England have been severely congested in recent weeks as officials struggle to get to grips with new regulations leading to severe delays in the movement of goods and services between the UK and Europe, leading one Yorkshire businessman to describe the new trade deal as being worse than he would have anticipated under a No Deal exit.

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Yorkshire already ranks towards the bottom of the league table when it comes to international trade and there are fears this will decline further as company bosses choose to focus on domestic markets to avoid the hassles involved.

Delays at borders are posing severe headaches for business.

And there are concerns that the situation could deteriorate as companies begin to run out of the materials they had stockpiled late last year in preparation for a potential No Deal outcome.

Mark Goldstone, head of policy and business representation at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “All of these issues ultimately adds extra, and in some cases unrecoverable, costs to business, creates delays at borders in turn potentially damaging customer relationships and in some cases causing stock right offs, especially on perishable goods.

“Whilst for many this is a very steep and expensive learning curve, I am sure, in time, firms will get to grips with new trade procedures. In the meantime we need to ensure that short term challenges do not put firms off from overseas trade in the future.

“Businesses are having a hard enough time dealing with Covid and will look at the current situation with exports and decide to just not bother.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson after signing the trade agreement.

Thomas Kerfoot, founder and operations director of Ripon-based cosmetics firm O&3, said his firm would not ship any product to the EU saying it was “not worth the hassle and the cost”.

Mr Kerfoot, whose firm reluctantly took the decision last year to move a substantial amount of the firm’s operations to Poland, said: “Politicians have spun us a line that we have walked away with a deal. This is as bad as a No Deal.

“Yes, no tariffs, but never was there any mention of the hefty duty implications, paperwork, backlog, delays and the difficulty of the EU borders that we are now faced with.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that businesses, including those in Yorkshire, get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe.

“Businesses can access a vast range of help and guidance, including through videos, events, guidance on GOV.UK, and one to one support.

We have launched an EU Transition trader online forum to give businesses one channel to ask questions and get answers.”