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Brexit Weekly Digest - 28 May

This week China takes the top spot as UK’s biggest import market, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss proposes a free-trade deal to Australia, and M&S reveals the cost of moving goods to Northern Ireland post-Brexit. Plus, details of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce ‘Anything to Declare – 175 Days later?’ webinar.

Anything to Declare - 175 days later? Thu 3 Jun 2021 at 14:00

Next week, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce is hosting ‘Anything to Declare – 175 days later?’ – an online webinar focused on helping businesses that have imported from the EU to understand their responsibilities and get ready to declare from 1 July. Experts from HMRC will be on hand to answer your questions.

Register now

Check if you can delay sending HMRC full information about your goods by up to 175 days here, and see what actions you need to take before the deadline.


China overtakes Germany as UK’s top import market

A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows China to be the UK’s biggest single import market for the first time since records began. Goods imports from China have increased by 65.6%, from £10.2bn (Q1 2018) to £16.9bn (Q1 2021), overtaking Germany whose imports fell from £17.0bn to £12.5bn during the same period.

The ONS believes uncertainty over the details of the UK’s exit from the EU are to blame for the fall in German imports. Meanwhile, trade with China has increased during the pandemic due to demand for face masks and other personal protective equipment.


UK makes free-trade offer to Australia despite farmers' fears

Last week, party leaders and farmers campaigned against a UK-Australia trade deal, over fears that cheaply produced Australian beef, lamb and sugar will damage agriculture in the UK. However, this week, UK government has offered Australia the trade deal, under which both countries would phase out taxes on imports over a 15-year period (BBC News).

The deal is unwanted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), who worry that free Australian meat imports will lead to hundreds of British cow and sheep breeders going out of business. However, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is keen to strike a post-Brexit deal with Australia before the G7 summit in June, in hopes it will encourage trade deals with other countries. Boris Johnson has said “We are certainly looking at doing free trade deals around the world”.


Brexit and Irish Sea border cost M&S about £30m

According to major British retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S), Brexit and the Irish Sea border have cost the company £30m in operations to move products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The company, which turns over around £9bn per year, is planning to implement “medium-term solutions to stabilise the business in both the North and the Republic [of Ireland]” (BBC News). Further long-term plans are being made to reduce the large costs sustainably, including local sourcing and re-routing products through European hubs.

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