07:00 on December 29, 2021
Tim Jones, President of the North Devon Biosphere Foundation:
Evidence is starting to emerge on the real effect of the Brexit decision on a wide range of businesses in North Devon.
In 2020, before the release ended, trade levels averaged 42% of our regional exports and 52% of our regional imports.
No single country in the EU was our most powerful trading partner.
In fact, looking at individual countries, the United States was our largest trading partner, accounting for just over 20 percent of our exports and 13 percent of our imports.
Since then, the situation has significantly reversed.
UK trade with the EU fell sharply between late 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
On average, our exports have fallen by about 18 percent and our imports by about 25 percent.
We always expected that there would be a major correction.
Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, most of the issues have been resolved, with the exception of the one between the European Union and Northern Ireland where the provisions of a special protocol apply.
There has been a lot of publicity recently about this and our EU negotiator – Lord Frost – is in a very trying dialogue with officials.
Although there are no tariffs on goods traded between the EU and the UK, goods must comply with the relevant ‘rules of origin’, which determine the ‘economic nationality’ of goods.
Goods are also subject to customs formalities and must meet all EU standards and are subject to regular regulatory checks.
Our latest research indicates that bureaucracy and red tape have significantly affected trade volumes.
It is estimated that local businesses need to hire one or two of their highly trained staff to fight fires.
It seems that many companies in the EU cannot bother with the whole issue of validating ‘proof of origin’.
The UK therefore has a much lower priority.
If you take a closer look at the reasons for these difficulties, it quickly becomes apparent that a lot of the paperwork originates from the UK.
We are supposed to have specialist departments responsible for marking and certification in the UK, however, the complexity that is largely caused in Whitehall, involving things like customs codes and the alignment of different digital systems, Slowly stifles these previously valuable markets and reduces the motivation for companies to engage.
These problems are also affecting the recruitment of EU labor.
It is estimated that the South West has lost around 10,000 European workers.
The Government has recognized the difficulties this causes, particularly in agriculture and health.
They are rapidly increasing the flexibility of this process, however the reality is that in order to bring labor to our region from the EU it is still necessary to go through the 50 page manual for visa processing. in line.
One of the reasons we left the EU was the perception that European bureaucrats were imposing huge amounts of red tape.
It has always been known that these regulations were “gold plated” by Whitehall.
Now all the facts are emerging as to the extent of this disruption.
It is a simple fact that North Devon has had and should continue to have strong trade relations with our nearest neighbors.
It is a market rich in opportunity and it is currently being stifled for the wrong reasons.
It is increasingly evident that we are replacing some of our lost export trade with countries around the world outside the EU.
This is, however, a slow process. There is, for example, no evidence of a trade agreement with the United States. Other countries have made agreements, but in many cases they have taken years to materialize.
So now we need to develop a strong, evidence-based lobbying initiative with the government.
Our MPs and public sector bodies will want to support this work as it will define the future growth of North Devon.
The urgency of developing a strong advocacy document is extreme.
So this should be a priority for the first few weeks of the new year.