IoD: One month into new customs arrangements, small businesses are feeling the pinch

Over half of all firms (58%) who have imported from the EU since the new customs arrangements were introduced in January have found the new customs controls ‘challenging’.  

In the Institute of Directors survey of over 200 business leaders who import from the EU, it was found the level of difficulty in working with the new controls is also higher for smaller companies. 31% of small businesses reported they found the new arrangements ‘very challenging’, compared to 12% of medium sized businesses and only 7% of larger businesses.  

Emma Rowland, Policy Advisor at the Institute of Directors, commented: 

“The first month has been difficult for British businesses importing from the EU, with smaller companies experiencing particular problems. 

“Our members have told us these challenges are mainly due to added administration and paperwork, which in many cases means taking on extra costs. Smaller businesses do not have the capacity that larger businesses do to shoulder this burden, both in terms of time and resource. Further digitisation of systems will help streamline border processes and prevent these challenges from turning into long-term issues. 

“Overall, we are encouraged that the changes have not been as chaotic as expected. Since it is still early days, we can put initial delays and much of the lack of understanding down to teething problems. But ahead of additional controls coming later in the year, the Government must ramp up awareness and resources for SMEs, learning from the difficulties many companies have experienced in the last month. 

“We have a way to go before the arrangements for trading with the EU have settled. If our leaders work together to prioritise businesses’ confidence when trading across the Channel, that is a very good first step.”