The meeting between Boris Johnson and the US president was amicable, with oddments of progress discussed but little prospect of a wider deal.
This update matches the timing of UK government announcements on trade with the EU, specifically the postponement of various checks that should have begun for EU importers. Amongst other reasons, we are not ready.
At least some of the possible symptoms of Brexit did not happen, such as mass vehicle queues. The trade slump in January 2021 is also behind us and the latest figures show that UK exports to the EU are down 17% year on year.
This may prove to be a fair assessment, due to some trade becoming impractical, altered alliances and the increased requirements. Regular exporters to the EU may now be used to them but this does not remove the load.
From our perspective, ATA carnets for temporary export to the EU have proven resilient, the benefits of an international system. An additional action and cost but journeys have produced few, if any issues for carnet users.
Recovering lost trade with the EU would be welcome but we may need to wait a while. UK – EU relations are not currently brimming with joy, in terms of ongoing negotiations, or with individual countries such as France.
Part of the Brexit plan was bringing the freedom to strike new deals with a range countries. This has barely happened, a helpful but limited agreement with Japan, a wider pact with Australia and a nominal one with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are the only new deals.
Most of the others are simply rollover agreements, with no change from our position when in the EU. The counting has also been creative, such as one pact with Carribean countries being seen as 14 separate deals.
All of the above is still progress, trade with mainly smaller nations can continue on reasonable terms and this adds up. Full trade deals with more major partners, such as the US, look to be a distant prospect.
The vague plan to join USMCA (a US, Canada, Mexico pact) has little support, neither do a few other pieces of blue sky thinking.
Back To Europe
There are facts we can’t escape. The UK’s nearest physical neighbour is Europe, a major trading bloc, there are existing business and cultural ties. Neither are there reasons why most nations would give us a better deal than one they have with the EU.
We have left the EU now, a decision unlikely to be reversed any time soon, so both sides would be best served by an open, pragmatic view of the near future.
The UK is separate, jobs and standards need to be protected on both sides but they can be by working together again. Our support for ATA carnets to the EU has been in demand, showing the strength of current links.
From a UK business perspective, much is still there to be built on, we hope politicians on both sides can focus on this.