Nearly three quarters of UK businesses found that their business had received ‘no benefits’ since the UK left the EU in January 2021.

A survey of 365 UK business leaders found that 73% stated that their company has seen no benefits from Brexit since the UK officially left the EU in January last year, with over a quarter, 26%, stating that they have made a conscious decision to move away from importing or exporting to or from the EU in 2021 as a result.

The survey by logistics company One World Express focused on how businesses, both large with 250 plus employees and small with two to nine employees, fared in the year since Brexit and what their outlook was for 2022.

A quarter, 25%, of UK businesses were ‘significantly impacted’ by Brexit last year with 66% finding that demand for their products and services had decreased or stayed the same, 29% of respondents experienced difficulty in attempting to secure working visas for EU based employees and 43% faced severe supply disruption. 

Asking how well the business adapted its operations following Brexit, it was split directly down the middle with 50% stating that it adapted well while 50% struggled.

Regarding government support, 65% of respondents did not believe the government provided ‘sufficient Brexit-related’ information and support through 2021 and 61% were not satisfied with the government’s progress with post-Brexit trade agreements.

Atul Bhakta, CEO, One World Express, said: ‘Brexit was always going to present challenges to UK businesses, but these have been compounded by the pandemic.

‘This double threat has resulted in staff shortages and supply chain problems, with Brexit adding new red tape on top of this. With further uncertainty created by the Omicron variant, it is little wonder that so many business leaders are concerned about the survival of their organisation.’

Looking to the future, nearly three in 10, 29%, business leaders fear their businesses will close before the end of 2022 and 37% believe that their businesses will not survive past 2027.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called on the government to fix the ‘Brexit red tape’ and further streamline new customs and trade processes to reduce the burden of paperwork and prevent delays.

The report, published ahead of the ‘Brexit day’ anniversary on 31 January and after the new rules came into force on 1 January, pointed out the need for an agreement on safety marking for industrial goods, and a veterinary deal to ease restrictions on the trade of plant and animal products.

The group also wants simplified, business-friendly rules on cross-border VAT to help UK companies trade with all countries in the EU.

Shevaun Haviland, director-general, BCC said: ‘At the time of the deal, it was like, we’ve got some things to fix underneath it, but we’ll get to that quite quickly afterwards. But we haven’t really been quick enough.’

‘Businesses were getting used to the new border rules, but these are holding companies back because they are costly and time-consuming, it’s just adding a lot of noise into the system, and it hasn’t gone away.’

The new rules introduced from 1 January had initially caused extra turmoil, with industry sources telling the BCC that about 30% of trucks were being turned back at Calais in the first week of this year however the BCC has stated that this had stabilised at about 10% now.

Bhakta concluded: ‘Trade between UK and non-EU countries has remained strong throughout 2021. After all, customs rules for such countries have remained unchanged despite Brexit, making the pursuit of trade opportunities beyond the EU seem a more attractive possibility for businesses going forward which they may want to pursue.’