Warning over Hartlepool area's £1bn EU trade

The Hartlepool area does over £1bn worth of business with EuropeThe Hartlepool area does over £1bn worth of business with Europe
The Hartlepool area does over £1bn worth of business with Europe
Warnings of “widespread disruption” to UK trade with the EU will put at risk £1bn worth of trade for companies in the Hartlepool area, according to new figures.

HM Revenue and Customs figures show 538 businesses registered in the Hartlepool and Stockton area exported goods worth £1.16bn to countries in the European Union in 2019.

The figures also show 760 businesses imported goods from the bloc at a value of £1.06bn last year.

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The figures only include trade in goods, not services, and public spending watchdog the National Audit Office has warned that “widespread disruption” to trade with the EU is likely when the country exits the single market at the end of December.

Across the UK, companies exported £168bn worth of goods to the EU last year, while imports amounted to £267bn.

A recent report by the National Audit Office said there was “significant uncertainty” about whether preparations will be complete in time for the UK's departure from the single market and that the

Government could have avoided some of the problems if it had been swifter to tackle issues such as the number of customs agents to help traders.

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Head of the NAO Gareth Davies said: “January 1 is unlike any previous EU exit deadline. Significant changes at the border will take place and Government must be ready.

Disruption is likely and Government will need to respond quickly to minimise the impact, a situation made more challenging by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Talks between the UK and EU continue but, if they fail, World Trade Organisation rules would kick in, which could increase the cost of imports and exports.

A government spokesman said: “We are making significant preparations to prepare for the guaranteed changes at the end of the transition period – including £705m to ensure the right border infrastructure, staffing and technology is in place, £84 million in grants to boost the customs intermediaries sector, and implementing border controls in stages so traders have sufficient time to prepare.

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“With less than two months to go, it’s vital that businesses and citizens prepare too. That’s why we’re intensifying our engagement with businesses and running a major public information campaign so they know exactly what they need to do to grasp the new opportunities available as the transition period ends.”