British Exports to the EU & Some Expats in Spain Face an Uncertain Future

It’s been another week of grim headlines about the consequences of Brexit. It’s not just UK exporters who have been feeling the heat. The anxiety of some UK expats living in Spain reached fever pitch on Wednesday. 

March 31st saw the end of the first 180 day period in 2021. It’s a significant milestone. Under new rules, UK nationals living in Spain who cannot officially prove residency face uncertain consequences. That’s if they’ve stayed longer than 180 days within a continuous six month period.

Some along the Costas have been whipping up fears of deportation, so much so that the Spanish authorities felt the need to come out and pour water on the fire, declaring that they’d be taking a more pragmatic approach.  

British exporters to the EU are still grappling with additional costs and complex paperwork to their biggest market.

Back home, British exporters to the EU are still grappling with additional costs and complex paperwork related to their biggest market. That’s three months after the new post-Brexit border procedures began.

The government would have us believe that “overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU” have been back to their normal levels since the beginning of February. 

Haulage groups say recent figures on freight volume only take into consideration the number of lorries and ferry movements and not the overall value of l goods traded between the EU and UK. They say many more trucks than before are going back to the EU empty.

Some exporters described the first month of the year as chaotic. That was because of delays at customs and confusion over extra duties and taxes. Some found shipments were returned to UK warehouses. 

The workaround some are considering is to establish warehouses in countries like Belgium. This was often seen previously as a last resort and worst case scenario option. It now seems to be the only way forward for lots of businesses, and the consequences for the UK are thought to be negative in part due to staff reductions.

Investment companies across Europe say they’ve seen a big hike in the amount of UK businesses showing an interest in transferring parts of their operations across the channel.

Investment companies across Europe say they’ve seen a big hike in the amount of UK businesses showing an interest in transferring parts of their operations across the channel. The Netherlands is coming up as a favoured destination. But for lots of small businesses such ventures are just not viable.

New Support Fund created

The government has created a £20m Brexit Support Fund for small and medium-sized businesses. This assistance has been welcomed and the Federation of Small Businesses is demanding an increase in the size of the support fund. 

The very fact that this support is being offered at all suggests an acknowledgement that something which was once easy and cheap is now tough and costly. The EU makes up nearly half of all UK exports so the outlook doesn’t look great for a UK economy that’s relied so heavily on its closest neighbours for frictionless trade in the past. 

There’s clearly a lot of exasperation around. One of the biggest sources of irritation is the notion that the UK will all of a sudden be free to export more around the world. Businesses claim that exporting is really difficult and that new markets can’t be magically created in an instant to replace losses in UK exports to the EU.

In a separate development, the environment secretary, George Eustice, is being threatened with legal action. This comes from UK shellfish farmers who feel misled by government claims about post-Brexit arrangements with the EU.

They want compensation for loss of earnings due to the ban on UK shellfish exports to the EU.

All this is taking place as the UK finally hands its roadmap to the EU on implementation of the Northern protocol Ireland following the launch of legal action by the EU over an alleged breach of the withdrawal treaty.