More than half of UK firms have faced disruption due to Brexit, poll finds

·4-min read

Nearly three months into the post-Brexit era, over half of UK businesses say they have faced disruption.

According to new polling from YouGov shared exclusively with Sky News, that figure rises to 80% among firms that do a "moderate" or "large" amount of trade with the EU.

The survey of 2,046 businesses found that large organisations were more likely to have been affected than SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

Three-quarters of all firms that reported having experienced disruption said they expected the impact to last a long time.

The Brexit withdrawal agreement came into force on 1 January.

While it agreed that there would be no tariffs or quotas on goods traded between the EU and the UK, businesses now face customs procedures at the border and safety checks on some goods.

Although the worst predictions of border description have been avoided, firms have had to adjust to new costs and delays, which for some has resulted in a drop-off in orders - all while dealing with the impact of the pandemic.

The survey found that just over half of businesses (52%) had faced disruption, with one in eight (13%) saying it had been a large amount.

A further one in six (17%) say the impact has been moderate, with a fifth reporting a small amount of disturbance (22%).

The impact was greater among those that do a "moderate" or "large" amount of trade with the EU.

Two in five respondents were in this category - and of this group, 80% said they had faced problems, 72% said the problems were substantial and 60% said they expected the situation to get worse.

Attitudes were mixed among the businesses polled in relation to whether Brexit will affect them negatively overall. While 46% say it would, about a third (36%) say it won't have an impact and 12% believe it will benefit them.

Bearmach is one of many UK businesses that has been affected.

The south Wales-based business exports car parts suitable for Land Rovers to 130 countries around the world, with between 25% to 30% of its business done with the EU-based customers.

"We're about 20% down," director Stuart Truckel explained.

"The EU customers understand now that there is additional cost, but still with the delay of getting the goods they're more nervous about placing orders due to those delays.

"There's an appetite still to buy from us, but there's a nervousness."

"For example, one of our Spanish customers this morning, we've had to chase because he's still waiting for a shipment from the second week of February."

Exports to the EU from Britain have been subject to customs controls since 1 January, but the government has implemented a phased approach on EU imports to give hauliers and businesses more time to adapt.

That introduction of import checks has been delayed a further six months to January 2022, with the government blaming the extra pressure caused by the pandemic.

According to the YouGov research, the COVID-19 is having an impact on more businesses than Brexit.

Seven in ten surveyed (71%) say the pandemic will affect them negatively.

Only one in seven (14%) say it will not have any consequences for their company, while 12% believe it will be beneficial.

Most companies impacted by both the pandemic and Brexit expect that the former will matter in the short-term, while the implications from the latter will be lengthy.

While 47% of those negatively impacted by COVID-19 said they thought it would have a long-term impact, that number rises to 73% for those negatively impacted by Brexit.

"From my experience so far, in the first three months, it does get better day by day," Mr Truckel said.

"Do I think we'll be back to normal in three months' time? No I don't, but I do think we should be close to where we were pre-Brexit by the end of the year."

He added that managing Brexit on top of the pandemic this year has been "very, very stressful".

Speaking on behalf of the government in the House of Commons on Thursday, Penny Mordaunt MP, the paymaster general, said she was sorry to hear businesses are still having difficulties.

But she added: "Frictionless trade would have required regulatory alignment with the EU, which would have undermined our own autonomy in that area and our sovereignty as an independent trading nation.

"That was not a price that we were prepared to pay.

"However, we do recognise that these are ongoing difficulties.

"We will be bringing forward further practical measures to address these issues and to provide business with more support."