The newly appointed Brexit secretary says current supply chain disruptions are not being caused by Brexit, despite disagreement from trade bodies and many British companies.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has sparked a war of words after claiming evidence shows Brexit-related impacts on trade drops were “few and far between”.
This comes after multiple industries called for support to manage the negative consequences, including UK Major Ports Group CEO, Tim Morris, telling Supply Management ports had been left without a “clear plan” for post-Brexit customs arrangements, despite “months” of repeated requests for clarity, driving uncertainty in the sector and risking further logistics problems.
Rees-Mogg, who was appointed Brexit minister last week, insisted that Covid – not post-Brexit border arrangements – were causing “the most enormous disruptions to supply chains”.
He told the BBC: “We've had containers simply being stuck [in] the wrong place, being stuck in Chinese ports, being stuck in the port of Los Angeles. This has been a global trade issue – and we do have to recover from the problems of Covid.
“Brexit has been extremely beneficial for the country,” he claimed.
Contrary to his statements, a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey of 1,000 businesses found 71% of exporters said EU trade deals were not enabling them to grow or increase sales. Only 8% of businesses felt Brexit had allowed their businesses to grow.
The report, released yesterday, also asked companies to comment on specific advantages or disadvantages of the trade deal – just 59 firms identified advantages of post-Brexit trade agreements, while 320 registered disadvantages.
Those who said Brexit caused disadvantages cited rising costs, not having the time and money to deal with added bureaucracy, and that it had discouraged EU customers from considering UK goods and services due to “perceived costs and complexities”.
BCC head of trade policy William Bain said: “This latest BCC research clearly shows there are issues with the EU trade deal that need to be improved.”
He added: “Many companies have neither the time, staff or money to deal with the additional paperwork and rising costs involved with EU trade, nor can they afford to set up a new base in Europe or pay for intermediaries to represent them.
“But if both sides take a pragmatic approach, they could reach a new understanding on the rules and then build on that further.”
Meanwhile, a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has revealed “new border arrangements had added costs to business”, and that new customs regulations were “ultimately harming UK competitiveness”.