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Thousands of UK firms halt trade with EU

Thousands of companies in Britain were forced to stop trading with the European Union in January because of disruption caused by Brexit, research suggests.

Nearly one in five company directors whose organisations generally trade with the EU said that they had halted trade with the bloc that month, according to a poll of 905 members of the Institute of Directors.

The institute has 25,000 members, of which about three quarters usually conduct business with the EU. Of the 17 per cent polled who said that their organisations had halted EU trade in January, 48 per cent said that this had been temporary and 42 per cent said it was permanent.

Sixty-two per cent of the directors polled answered “no” when asked if their organisation had seen any positives arising from Brexit. Twenty-three per cent answered “yes”.

The Office for National Statistics is scheduled to publish its January trade data today, giving the most comprehensive picture yet of how trade has been affected since the Brexit transition period ended on December 31.

Roger Barker, policy director at the IoD, said that its survey should “serve as a call to action” for the government. “The hit to trade with our largest and nearest market needs to be addressed to ensure it does not become a permanent dent in our global ambitions,” he said.

“Now that the UK is independently sovereign, proactive co-operation on an equal footing must be the priority. Business wants to see a twin-track approach to stabilising and repairing our trade with the EU, while robustly pursuing new deals with other countries that will unlock new markets.”

The institute’s survey was conducted between January 11 and 25. A report last month by the British Chambers of Commerce found that half of goods exporters were struggling under the Brexit trade agreement. The trade deal was causing significant problems and adding costs for most manufacturers and other goods exporters, its survey of 1,000 mainly small businesses found.

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