Trade with Great Britain fell significantly in January

British trade with the EU slumped significantly in the first month after the country left the EU. The ONS statistics office in London announced that exports to the Union fell by 40.7 percent in January compared to the previous month. Imports collapsed by 28.8 percent. Foreign trade with Austria has also declined, says the economic delegate in London, Christian Kesberg, to the APA: “It’s the pandemic with the brake booster Brexit”.

According to British statistics, total exports and imports to Great Britain fell by around a fifth each in January. It was the largest monthly decline since records began in January 1997, reported the dpa. The Chamber of Commerce does not yet have precise figures for the decline in Austrian exports and imports.

Kesberg sees the reason for the break-in in January on the one hand the corona pandemic, which led to a complete lockdown in Great Britain in January with very high numbers of infections, and on the other hand the consequences of Brexit. Here in 2020 the warehouses were filled “up to the skylight” for fear of a no-deal Brexit and supply bottlenecks. The January figures in foreign trade are therefore only a “snapshot”, he points out. In London, the trade and the body-friendly service providers are still closed. Among the around 250 Austrian branches in Great Britain, mainly in mechanical engineering, systems and niche products, there are also winners in the crisis.

The automotive sector has been particularly hard hit in the UK. In January, car production on the island fell for the 17th month in a row. The number of vehicle registrations in January fell by 39 percent compared to the previous year. You don’t buy a car in lockdown, says the Austrian delegate to the Chamber of Commerce. The British were hit even harder by the corona pandemic than continental Europe, also because they reacted too late in the first wave and even had to close construction and industry. A successful vaccination campaign is now running, so expectations for 2021 are based on a “gentle recovery” of the British economy starting from a low level.

Now that Great Britain has finally left the EU, customs duties are also incurred in foreign trade. For Austrian companies, customs declarations are likely to cost an additional 40 million euros per year – with a total export volume of over 4 billion euros, according to Kesberg, this is an affordable amount, he said in the Ö1 lunch journal on ORF radio on Tuesday. Around 150 domestic companies dominate the movement of goods with Great Britain, the additional expenditure for these companies is manageable. However, the problem children are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with less export experience.

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