Firm 'on the brink of collapse' due to trade disruption with the EU
- Credit: PA
A Suffolk firm says it could be forced to close within weeks due to disruption caused by Brexit, as new data shows the split's impact on trade with Europe.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that overall exports from the UK fell by £5.6 billion – 19.3%.
This fall was driven by a plunge in the UK's exports to the EU of £5.6 billion, or 40.7%.
Imports to the country also fell, by £8.9 billion overall (21.6%), while imports from the EU dropped £6.6 billion (28%), the figures show.
The falls in imports and exports are the largest since records began in 1997, the ONS said.
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Suffolk businesses are feeling the effects of this disruption.
René van den Oort, owner of Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds, said a delivery from the continent would be on his shelves within 10 days before Brexit, but an order he placed at the beginning of February has still not turned up.
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According to Mr van den Oort his delivery is stuck at the border because of the recent influx of post-Brexit customs paperwork.
"If we don't get our stock within the next two or three weeks we're going to have to close up," he said. "It's that bad."
Mr van den Oort says that 85% of his business comes from selling Belgian beers but now his stock is running low.
"I'm packing the last few bottles at the moment. My stock is completely gone.
"I'm trying to fill the gap with other beers from local breweries but obviously people still want the variety and the choice.
"I'm at the end. After 10 years of putting everything into a business it's on the brink of collapse, almost overnight, because I can't get the stock.
"I could sell other stuff but people know me for my Belgian beers and my speciality beers, and my knowledge of those beers."
Mr van den Oort said he had not been able to speak to anyone about where his delivery is or when it will arrive.
Koyas Miah, a trade adviser at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said other businesses had been put in similar positions because of the disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic.
He said: "It's especially the businesses that are specialising in products or services that they can't really diverse from.
"There are workarounds but they're more tricky in these cases."
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, said "supply chains have shown themselves to be robust" since the UK left the EU.
But Mr Gove said the government had adjusted its timeframes for tightening customs controls because the disruption caused by Covid-19 "has lasted longer and has been deeper than we anticipated".