Brexit, pandemic slashed by half UK exports to EU

Photo: EPA

The exports of food and drinks from Britain to the European Union have dropped nearly by half due to trade barriers linked to Brexit and Covid-19 lockdowns, BBC reported. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) figures confirm that sales to EU dropped by a total of 47%in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2020.

The UK government elaborated it was "too early to draw any firm conclusions" on the long term impact of Brexit. It also said the pandemic had depressed demand.

New trade barriers were not the only factor affecting cross channel trade. The FDF said that the Covid-19 outbreak accounted for a decline of some 10-15%. Figures for the quarter were also affected by companies stockpiling ahead of the Brexit-related changes.

The combination of these factors, the FDF says, led to significant falls in the value of leading exports. Compared with the first quarter of 2019 - before Covid became a factor - exports of cheese were down 72%, fish sales were down 52% and chocolate was down 37%.

Exports of food and drink to nearly all EU nations fell significantly in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year. Worst hit was trade with Ireland - normally the sector's biggest overseas market. It was down by more than 70%. But sales to Germany, Spain and Italy also more than halved. For decades, the UK has sold more food and drink to the European Union than the rest of the world combined.

However, the fall in shipments to Europe means that is no longer the case. In the first quarter exports to non-EU nations made up 55% of the total. The FDF said this is the first time this has happened in at least 20 years. Overall, sales to non-EU countries rose by 0.3% - although there was a significant increase in shipments to China.

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