British firms face the introduction of much-delayed post-Brexit border control checks from today, which will affect businesses importing $314 billion (Sh32 trillion) of goods a year from the European Union.
Britain left the EU’s single market at the beginning of 2021 and while Europe imposed checks on goods straight away, Britain staggered and delayed the introduction of a full customs border.
From January 1, 2022, EU businesses sending goods to Britain will now need to supply full customs declarations while traders will also have to prove that goods are allowed to enter tariff-free under rules of origin requirements.
Martin McTague, the vice-chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, warned the switch to import checks was likely to cause significant disruption at a time when trade is already being hit by the Covid supply chain problems and labour shortages.
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“Our own research found a third of small business importers were unaware of the changes, while among those who did know this was coming, only one-in-four was prepared,” he said.
Britain’s departure from the world’s biggest trading bloc has already had an impact on British exports to Europe after the government’s Brexit deal meant firms had to fill out lengthy documents and pay fees to move goods across the border.
A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce in October showed that 45 per cent of companies found it very or relatively difficult to trade goods with the EU, up from 30 per cent in January when the deal came into effect.
Supporters of Brexit say a nimbler Britain will, in the long run, be able to tap into faster-growing markets.