UK exports hit by EU and US tariffs



Despite the tariff-free deal agreed with the EU, up to £3.5bn of British exports have already had taxes applied and the US has introduced new tariffs worth $2bn on European goods, including products from the UK.

British goods worth billions of pounds, accounting for about 10% of British exports to the EU, have faced tariffs since Brexit, according to an analysis of official EU statistics.

Some firms paid due to the complexity of claiming zero tariffs, or said they hoped to reclaim the fees later.

For exporters, maintaining zero tariffs under the post-Brexit deal is not automatic, it needs to be claimed on customs declarations that from January have had to accompany every export to the European Union.

Using European customs data from these declarations, an analysis for the BBC, by the University of Sussex’s Trade Policy Observatory found that between £2.5bn and £3.5bn of British exports faced a tariff in the first three months of 2021.

Findings that were confirmed by the European Commission, who said that according to data collected by its customs authorities, €2.5bn of eligible UK exports did not use the zero-tariff agreement.

Tariff-free trade with the EU is only tariff-free if firms satisfy the rules of origin criteria and submit the appropriate declarations and information.

What the BBC’s analysis shows is that in the first quarter, around 27% of trade that could have entered tariff-free did not do so, either because they were uncertain how to comply, or did not realise they could avoid tariffs.

There are some complex arrangements for claiming zero tariffs and difficulties over the re-export to the EU of goods processed in Britain, but these are all clearly understood by our brokers and integrated in our CuDoS customs platform.

We can help you recover any duties you have paid and ensure you avoid the unnecessary expense in the future.

The Trade Policy Observatory has tried to quantify the effect of extra trade barriers with the EU on different sectors.

Although exports began to recover from a massive drop in January, over the quarter, the Observatory calculated that, of the worst affected sectors, textiles saw exports fall 63%, food suffered a 36% drop, and the automotive industry saw exports down 20%.

The US last week revealed a $2bn tariff threat over digital taxes, ahead of G7 discussions on global minimum tax on Friday.

The threat to slap tariffs on goods from the UK, Austria, India, Italy, Spain and Turkey as they argue about how to tax technology companies, is a move some fear may risk reigniting trade wars unless parties resolve thorny talks over a broader international tax agreement.

The office of the US trade representative said it was imposing but immediately suspending for six months the tariffs on as it wrapped up a series of investigations over the way the countries tax US tech giants.

President Biden’s gambit may have had some success, with the G7 reaching a “historic agreement” on taxing multinationals last week and marks a significant step forward in negotiations that started in 2013. 

The G7 pact is a stepping stone towards a deal in the formal negotiations taking place at the OECD in Paris and directed by the wider G20 countries.

We continue to monitor the evolving UK/EU customs regime situation, to offer advice and tailored customs brokerage solutions through our CuDoS platform.

The whole area of ‘rules of origin’ and duty refunds can be challenging, which is why our expert brokers can provide advice and guidance on your current situation and help you in developing the most appropriate EU customs compliance model to support your EU trading and business.

For further information please contact Elliot Carlile or Grant Liddell to organise a full review and discussion relating to current issues that you may be facing.