EU’s fears over Brexit before trade deal chaos: ‘Everybody is losing’

European Union facing internal 'battle' over vaccines says MEP

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The implementation of the Brexit trade deal has resulted in huge impacts on both sides of the English Channel. The UK has seen its trade with Europe encounter increased bureaucracy as fishermen and figures in the haulage industry rage at the new trading relationship. Last month, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said loads on lorries going through British ports to the EU had fallen by as much as 68 percent in January 2021 compared to January 2020. The Government challenged this claim, but Cabinet figures do suggest that less lorries have moved from the UK to the EU since January 1.

The impact is also being felt in Germany, as exports to UK from the country dropped by almost a third in the first month under post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Germany’s official statistics body said the end of the Brexit transition period was responsible for a 30 percent year-on-year plunge in exports to the UK in January but economists predicted the trade slump will ease.

Concerns about trade were prominent in Europe during the Brexit process, as highlighted by Joachim Coens, managing director at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

He told Al Jazeera in 2019: “Our logistics hub [at the port of Zeebrugge] focuses on the UK trade. Up to 45 percent of traffic and activity is related to business with the UK, so it is a very important market. Everything that makes trading less efficient is a pity. The fact that the UK will not stay in a kind of union that allow us to exchange goods easily is a pity.

“Globalisation created an emotional reaction and some people would like to go back in time. With Brexit, however, everybody is losing.”

Pieter Cleppe, head of Brussels office at policy think-tank Open Europe, said that the EU needs reform to prevent another departure from the EU.

He said: “Before Brexit, the EU should have listened to the concerns of the British and reformed the EU according to their needs.

“Not so much because the UK should dictate what must happen in Europe, but because many of the concerns the UK has been expressing over the years are shared by many people elsewhere.”

Mr Cleppe added that some parts of EU policy had made it harder, not easier, to trade.

The expert called on the “technocratic approach of the EU” to end.

He continued: “It’s perfectly possible to keep the EU. The EU is fundamentally a good thing, because it helps people move and trade across borders, but the approach according to which a lot of regulations are being made at a Brussels level need to end.

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“Supposedly it opens up trades. Often making rules at the EU level is an excuse for governments preferring to make rules in Brussels so they don’t have to face their national parliaments and the scrutiny of the national media.

“One can also open up trade by scrapping protectionist elements in national legislation. The very technocratic top-down approach of the EU has to end.

“I think, despite all the bad aspects of Brexit, one good side of it is that we will see more regulatory competition.”

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