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Trade slump

One in four SME exporters halts sales to EU

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Many firms have stopped exporting to the EU

Almost one in four (23%) SME exporters have temporarily halted sales to European Union (EU) customers and 4% have stopped permanently because of new trading rules.

The first full quarter of post-transition trading comes to a close on Wednesday. The day also marks two years since the original Brexit date that firms were told to prepare for in 2019.  

According to an FSB survey, one in ten (11%) exporters are considering halting sales to Europe permanently.

The same proportion have established, or are considering establishing, a presence within an EU country to ease their exporting processes.


A similar number (9%) are thinking about securing, or are already using, warehousing space in the EU or Northern Ireland (NI) for the same purpose.

Small importers are also hard hit by new paperwork, though fewer than one in five have temporarily suspended purchases from the EU (17%), and a smaller proportion are using EU or NI warehousing space (6%).

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “At a moment when small firms are doing all we can to return to growth and get our economy firing on all cylinders again, those that do business internationally are being hit with some incredibly demanding, unfamiliar paperwork. 

“Three months on from the end of the transition period, what we hoped would prove to be teething problems are in danger of becoming permanent, systemic ones.

“While larger firms have the resources and bandwidth to overcome them regardless, smaller traders are struggling, and considering whether exports are worth the effort anymore.

“Unless more is done to ease the admin burden on those that do business overseas, and increase access to markets outside the EU, it will weigh heavy on our efforts to recover from the most severe downturn on record.”

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