The British government needs to rectify post-Brexit red tape over customs and trade processes and issue more visas to address labor shortages, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.
The trade group, which represents tens of thousands of businesses across the UK, has expressed concern about disruption caused by the UK’s exit from the EU’s internal market.
In a comprehensive report ahead of the “Brexit Day” commemoration on 31 January, the BCC calls on the UK and the EU to further streamline new customs and trade processes to reduce the burden of paperwork and prevent delays .
It should include an agreement on safety marks of industrial goods – where differences will exist with the EU – and a veterinary agreement to ease restrictions on trade in plant and animal products.
The group also wants simplified, business-friendly rules on cross-border VAT to help UK companies trade with all EU countries.
Shevaun Haviland, the BCC director general who joined from the Cabinet Office last year, expressed concern about how long the government is taking to rectify the problems Brexit has caused companies.
“At the time of the transaction, it was like, ‘We have a few things to fix, but we’ll get to that pretty quickly.’ But we were not really fast enough, ”she said.
Businesses have “gotten used to” the new boundary rules, she added, but it holds companies back because it is “expensive and time consuming… It just adds a lot of noise to the system. It has not gone away.”
The BCC said new border controls on EU imports coming into effect this year run the risk of exacerbating supply chain problems, and urged the government to prioritize the flow of goods.
The new rules introduced from January 1 initially caused extra disruption – with industry sources telling the BCC that about 30 per cent of the trucks were turned back at Calais in the first week of this year – but Haviland said it had stabilized at around 10 per cent.
The BCC has called on the government to provide further financial assistance to companies that need to comply with the rules by bringing back SME Brexit Support Fund, set up to help small businesses deal with the disruption and paperwork associated with leaving the EU, and to increase its maximum payments to more than £ 2,000.
Haviland has urged the EU and the UK to reach an agreement on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. “Negotiations must be concluded as soon as possible. . . businesses just need to know, somehow, what the outcome is? ”
She also pointed to the need to reconsider curbs on business travel and UK professional qualifications in the EU.
Haviland added that BCC members are concerned about access to skilled workers, with labor shortages proving an “obstacle to economic growth” in the UK. The group asked for extra visas “to try to ease some of the tension in the system”.
“It absolutely does not ask for uncontrolled immigration,” she said. “Are we just saying that in areas like hospitality, construction and manufacturing where there are bottlenecks, we can only sort out short-term visas while people become skilled at fulfilling those roles?”
She said companies were also concerned about the rising cost of doing business in the UK, given the rising bills for energy, wages, materials and supplies. Businesses will have to raise prices as a result, she added.
“The biggest concern for businesses is inflation, even above labor shortages.”
The BCC wants the government to postpone the national insurance increase that takes effect in April and provide additional assistance to small businesses to cope with the increased cost of energy.
“Let us not lose it now, let us not kill it. The green shoots are there, let’s see them bloom rather than kill them. ”
The British government said the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement allowed British companies to “trade freely with Europe”, but had to adapt to new processes, for which they were offered one-on-one advice by ‘ a free-to-use export support service.
“Indications since January 1 are that traders and carriers are adapting very well to the introduction of full customs control,” a spokesman said.