London: The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union has left the country facing higher costs for trade regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published by a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
The UK left the EU on December 31, 2020, following a yearlong transition period. During that time global trade has been hit by the pandemic as well as bottlenecks in global supply chains, leaving many uncertain about the impact of Brexit.
But the Public Accounts Committee, made up of lawmakers from the British Parliament, said that even when taking into account the impact of COVID-19 and further global pressures "it is clear that the EU exit has had an impact, and that new border arrangements have added costs to business."
What the report said about post-Brexit trade
The chair of the committee, lawmaker Meg Hillier, said that: "One of the great promises of Brexit was freeing British businesses to give them the headroom to maximise their productivity and contribution to the economy — even more desperately needed now on the long road to recovery from the pandemic."
"Yet the only detectable impact so far is increased costs, paperwork and border delays," she added.
The report also warned of a windfall of border problems as cross-border passenger numbers begin to return to their pre-pandemic levels, triggering disruptions as ports have to deal with increased numbers of checks.
"Departments should be doing all they can to mitigate this risk and, more generally, factoring increases in passenger and trade volumes into their planning," the report said.
What is the situation with the UK's import controls?
The committee also cast doubt on the ability of the UK government to implement effective import controls, something that it has put off three times already.
This has been promised for 2022, but the report warns that "[t]here remains much to be done to make sure that hauliers from across the EU are prepared for the new checks.
The report also questions the government's pledge to create "the most effective border in the world” by 2025, calling it a "noteworthy ambition" but adding that it is "optimistic, given where things stand today and we are not convinced that it is underpinned by a detailed plan to deliver it."
The committee calls on the UK government to "minimise the current burden on those trading with the EU."
The state of the country's exports can be ascertained from the fact that the UK was the last of the Group of Seven — which includes France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the US — to see its exports surpass the average level from 2018.