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Complex customs paperwork and red tape leading to critical import export disruption – Make UK research

  • 60% of companies say they were ready for transition to end but now experiencing disruption

  • 61% also finding supply chains significantly impacted

  • Industry urges Government to sit down with the EU to fix border delays with mutually beneficial easements as a matter of urgency

  • Government should fast track the training of good quality customs agents to boost border flow

  • Government should facilitate exporters and hauliers to work together with industry to smooth out the problems

  • 61% of businesses regularly send employees to the EU to work 

  • And despite some general provisions in the agreement, this business travel will become more difficult and burdensome for business

Britain’s manufacturers are calling on the Government to move immediately to work with our European partners to find an urgent solution to the current long border delays caused by complex paperwork, on the back of a major survey showing that 60% of companies are experiencing significant disruption since January 1st.

Make UK research further revealed that some 61% of businesses are further enduring supply chain disruption either importing or exporting to and from the EU and 32% are having their supply chains impacted in both directions. Companies are also struggling to prove the UK origin of their goods in order to qualify for zero tariff access.

Customs paperwork urgently needs to be simplified on both sides of the border, so it can be completed and checked quickly before haulage journeys begin and companies can be reassured that their goods have a clear run to the end customer.  The increase in paperwork and red tape at the borders has led to substantial delays for trucks, with many left stranded across the Continent because of incorrect paperwork. Many businesses have already taken the hard decision to put a hold on importing and exporting from the EU in a hope that things improve, but this is having a serious commercial impact on companies already struggling to survive the current COVID crisis.

Government should fast track the training of good quality customs agents to smooth the flow at the border. In tandem, exporters and hauliers should be encouraged by Government to work with industry to smooth out the current problems as much as possible.

Additional red tape is also being heaped on business as they struggle to prove origin of their goods to qualify for zero tariffs. Some companies are finding the burden of proving origin so onerous, they are choosing to pay the tariffs rather than spend the additional time and money attempting to qualify for tariff free access, with serious financial ramifications. 

View the full report here

Government needs to move quickly to get around the table with the EU to sort out ongoing delays at the border and Rules of Origin issues which are making business unworkable on both sides of the channel. 


We are encouraged by recent constructive contact with Government to tackle these issues and that they looking to boost the number of customs agents. But finding a way to simplify customs declarations would mitigate against delays while an agreement on cumulation between the UK and the EU would mean that parts imported from regions outside the EU and the UK – like Japan and Turkey – can be counted towards local content.  This would provide a much needed boost for industry as many more goods would qualify for zero tariff access.

The deal as it stands also fails to provide for mutual recognition of professional qualifications which will pose a very significant problem for many industries as movement of key personnel to carry out work in the EU will much more restricted. If a company wants to send a service engineer to repair a piece of equipment delivered from a UK company as part of the maintenance contract, they may not be able to carry out the service, as his/her UK qualifications won’t be recognised. There is also complex paperwork to be filled in to allow business travel.

Stephen Phipson CEO, Make UK
News / Make UK / Leaving the EU / Media release