Brexit: Liz Truss claims trade with the EU is 'bouncing back'
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The International Trade Secretary admitted despite some “initial issues” in trade with the continent following the end of the transition period, businesses were learning to adapt to the new trade agreement. Ms Truss’s comments came after new data published last week indicated exports of British goods to the European Union rose to their highest level since October 2019 in May.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics said goods exports to the European Union, excluding precious metals, rose to £14billion pounds in May.
The figures if almost twice as high as in January.
At the start of the year the end of the EU transition period and the spread of the Kent coronavirus variant led to widespread stockpiling.
Imports from the EU have also risen after a slump at the start of the year, although they remain slightly below imports from the rest of the world.
“We have seen trade with the EU bounce back after some initial issues,” Ms Truss told MPs in the Commons.
Promising the UK’s ability to strike its own trade deals outside of the EU would lead to new opportunities, she said: “There’s been a worrying rise of protectionism in recent years.
“I’m proud the UK is leading the way in liberalising trade, striking new trade deals to bring new jobs and growth as we seek to build back better after Covid.”
The International Trade Secretary’s confidence about the resurgence in UK-EU trade followed criticism from the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara.
He said: “Six months into Brexit and for the seafood producers of my Argyll and Bute constituency, the sea of opportunity they were promised has turned out to be a swamp of bureaucracy.
“Alongside a mountain of paperwork and red tape, they all report falling prices, loss of markets, labour shortages and major transport and logistical problems.
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“Six months into Brexit they are facing an existential crisis.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued £10million of financial support for fisheries in April while businesses adopted to new post-Brexit rules.
Officials believe frictions caused by paperwork at the border will reduce as firms adapt to the new trading measures.
While the latest data indicates exports to the EU are recovering, fisheries are continuing to struggle.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, yesterday said the government’s assurances and promises made before striking a trade deal with the bloc late last year had been broken.
“It’s really quite hard to convey how sudden was the fishing industry’s fall from grace,” Mr Deas said.
“The flags flying over our vessels for the last couple of years had a slogan which was ‘fishing no sell out’ and that really spelt out our fears.
“Those flags now seem both politically astute and prescient because that’s what’s happened.”
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