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Trade problems

Ministers advised to relax Brexit rules to fix chaos

Northern Ireland trade has been badly affected

Badly planned Brexit trade arrangements must be relaxed and quickly re-written to avoid continued disruptions on both sides of the Channel, says a City-based specialist.

Alex Altmann, a partner and head of accountancy firm BlickRothenberg’s Brexit advisory group, says the problems are the result of ignoring expert advice and a chaotic information campaign.

Mr Altmann, who is also chairman of the British Chambers of Commerce in Germany, said the Government must temporarily relax the requirement for EU traders to have an office in the UK to import goods, and subsequently ask the EU commission to do the same.

“The most serious problem today is that businesses without a presence in the other market cannot import their goods without appointing a customs agent,” he said.

“This is how the new customs rules have been designed by the UK and the EU as part of the Brexit deal. This is a serious flaw. Customs agents are rare and very expensive and the UK currently requires about 20,000 more agents to meet demand.


“The Government should take this step very urgently to avoid a major supply chain disaster in the weeks ahead.” 

He said ministers must accept that their “expensive” Brexit information campaign has not prepared businesses well enough for the new trade relationship with the EU. He said the guidance provided by the government contains conflicting information, not enough detail, and to some extent, wrong advice. 

“This has become particularly apparent with regards to the new border situation with Northern Ireland. It has become clear that the Government’s guidance has not been drafted by trade and customs experts, which is a serious shortcoming.

“The Government must take a step back now and relax the rules for the time being, while redrafting guidance and advisory papers based on the final Brexit deal arrangements.

“This is the only way to overcome the misinformation and provide traders and freight carriers with the confidence they need to sell cross-border.”

He said one key area of confusion was around the new rules of origin provision.

“The Government presented the Brexit deal as a tariff and quota free agreement. This is only partly true. Tariffs still apply in the normal way for manufactured goods which contain more than 40% of ingredients with origins outside the UK or EU.”

Mr Altmann added: “There is no guidance of how businesses should calculate and document the origin analysis. This is causing major disruptions to supply chains. Again, we recommend that the new rules of origin are temporarily paused until there is sufficient guidance and expertise available to work this out.”

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