Peers argued paperwork required as part of the Government’s Brexit trade deal with the EU was having a damaging impact on businesses. They warned small firms were “feeling the squeeze” of added bureaucracy and urged ministers to take immediate action.
“While most trade is tariff-free, it is not simple,” the report concluded.
The Lords EU Goods Sub-Committee called on the Government to set up a trusted trade scheme that would help scrap unnecessary customs paperwork for goods being traded across the short strait.
It also said ministers should do more to help firms understand changes to VAT rules on exports the EU.
In the Beyond Brexit: Trade in Goods report published on Thursday, peers said there “remain substantial barriers to trade with the EU” following the implementation of the fresh trading terms.
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It also cautioned that, without action, the physical checks currently in place on animal and plant products could become a “permanent barrier to trade”.
Meat and seafood exports have been particularly hard hit by the new relationship with reams of paperwork introduced.
The added bureaucracy has slowed down shipments of goods to the continent meaning meat and fish headed to market are struggling to reach their final destination while still fresh.
“On customs, we recommend a trusted trader scheme to enable more businesses—especially smaller businesses—to benefit from simplified customs procedures,” it said.
“While the transition period has ended, some import restrictions are yet to be phased in.
“Preparedness is critical, and much work is still needed on physical infrastructure and awareness.”
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“Swift action and further funding is needed to minimise future disruption.
“Ongoing dialogue will be crucial to achieving smoother trade.
“The Trade and Cooperation Agreement should be treated as the start, not the end of the UK’s new relationship with the EU.”
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses has also criticised the customs paperwork, accusing it of crippling firms.
He warned the bureaucracy risked having a detrimental impact on the British economy.
Mr Cherry said: “At a moment when small firms are up against it like never before, those that trade internationally – often our most innovative and profitable businesses – are being hit with reams and reams of new paperwork.
“They simply don’t have the time or money to manage it.
“Unless we ease the admin burden being placed on our small importers and exporters it’s going to weigh heavy on our efforts to get the economy firing on all cylinders again.”