Irish freight volumes to EU ports doubled in first month of Brexit – Reuters

  • Irish freight volumes to and from European Union ports doubled in January, the government said on Monday, as many traders shunned the once-speedier route to the continent through Britain due to Brexit red tape and delays.
  • For decades, the so-called UK landbridge offered exporters the swiftest route between Ireland and mainland Europe. The UK’s exit from the EU at the end of 2020 has led to a three-fold rise in direct routes in the last 12 months, mainly to French ports.
  • Volumes were down 50% on routes between Ireland and Britain last month, the government said. That includes the large amount of direct goods trade between the neighbouring countries.
  • The large drop was due to a number of factors including pre-Brexit stockpiling, COVID-19 restrictions and the new Brexit checks, the government said, adding that volumes were gradually increasing and up 11% week-on-week in the final week of January.
  • “While many are successfully continuing to trade with Britain, some businesses, large and small, are having difficulty, in some cases severe difficulty, adapting to the new system of controls,” the government said.
  • Most of the new direct routes to the continent were launched to and from the southeastern Irish port of Rosslare and in a separate statement, it said its European freight traffic rose 446% year-on-year in January.
  • Similar to the wider drop, Rosslare’s UK traffic was down 49% last month.

UK applying to join Asia-Pacific free trade pact CPTPP – BBC

  • The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – or CPTPP – covers a market of around 500 million people. Joining the group of “fast-growing nations” will boost UK exports, the government says. But they are harder to reach than neighbouring markets in Europe.
  • Members include Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are also founder members of the bloc, which was established in 2018.
  • “In future it’s going to be Asia-Pacific countries in particular where the big markets are, where growing middle-class markets are, for British products,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
  • “Of course British businesses will have to reach out and take these opportunities, but what I’m doing is I’m creating the opportunities, the low tariffs, removing those barriers so they can go out and do that.”
  • Joining the bloc would reduce tariffs on UK exports such as whisky and cars, as well as service industries, she said. However the immediate impact is likely to be modest as the UK already has free trade deals in place with several CPTPP members, some of which were rolled over from its EU membership. The UK is negotiating deals with Australia and New Zealand.
  • In total, CPTPP nations accounted for 8.4% of UK exports in 2019, roughly the same proportion as Germany alone.
  • The US was originally in talks to be part of the CPTPP, but former President Donald Trump pulled out when he took office.
  • If the new administration in Washington were to reconsider the CPTPP, that would make membership much more attractive to the UK. It could allow a much closer UK-US trading relationship, without waiting for a bilateral trade deal to be negotiated.

UK fashion industry facing ‘decimation’ over Brexit trade deal – FT

  • The UK’s £35bn fashion and textile industry is facing “decimation” as a result of red tape and travel restrictions thrown up by the new post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU, Boris Johnson has been warned.
  • In an open letter to the UK’s prime minister leading fashion industry and chief executives and icons, including models Twiggy and Yasmin Le Bon, said that Brexit was strangling the complex international supply chains and relationships that underpinned their industry.
  • “The deal done with the EU has [left] a gaping hole where promised free movement for goods and services for all creatives, including the fashion and textiles sector, should be,” they wrote in the letter co-ordinated by the Fashion Roundtable, an industry forum.
  • Ms Le Bon said the ability to travel freely in the EU for work purposes was “crucial” to an industry where models could be assigned to a shoot with just a few hours notice. “The wealth of these creative industries is in our ability to move and change quickly. For once we need to be listened to and for the government to work with us before it is too late.”
  • The concerns echo those raised recently by the music industry about the need for work permits for each EU member state and paperwork for moving products and equipment, and they called for urgent action from the government. The industry, which employs nearly 900,000 people according to research by Oxford Economics, warned last summer that the Covid-19 pandemic had placed 250,000 jobs at risk.
  • Last week Samantha Cameron — whose husband David, then prime minister, called the 2016 Brexit referendum — warned her fashion business was finding post-Brexit trading with the EU “challenging and difficult”.
  • Many of the 52,000 smaller companies that make up the backbone of the sector could not afford the professional help needed to navigate the new controls, the letter added, with customers on both sides of the Channel rejecting purchases because of unforeseen VAT and tariff charges.
  • The UK is the first non-founding country to apply to join the CPTPP and, if successful, would be its second biggest economy after Japan. The free trade block aims to reduce trade tariffs – a form of border tax – between member countries.
  • It includes a promise to eliminate or reduce 95% of import charges- although some of these charges are kept to protect some home-made products, for example Japan’s rice and Canada’s dairy industry.