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Posted February 01, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's departure from the European Union has triggered the biggest change in trade since it joined the bloc 48 years ago, with companies grappling with export documents, longer delivery times and the need to re-engineer supply chains.

Freight volumes moving between the United Kingdom and the European Union were down 38% in the third week of January compared with the same week a year ago, real-time truck movement data shows.

Below are just some of the ways in which trade is changing since Britain exited the EU's single market and customs union on Dec. 31:

LONGER DELIVERY TIMES

Fishermen were the first workers to be hit in January when the introduction of health checks, certificates and customs declarations delayed the movement of stocks to such an extent that they were rejected by European buyers as no longer fresh.

Since then food producers of products ranging from cheese to high-end beef have stopped exporting to Europe for now, put off by expensive health certificates and overwhelming paperwork.

Some companies are trying to find a solution. Some Scottish fishermen have taken their catch directly to Danish markets to avoid the British bureaucracy. However about a fifth of small and medium-sized businesses that export to the EU have temporarily halted sales.

SUPPLY CHAINS

The new friction has forced those companies that can afford it to re-examine their supply chains, particularly those British firms that risk tariffs by selling goods into the EU that were made from materials originally imported from Asia.

Online clothing giant ASOS expects a 15 million pound ($21 million) tariff hit because, although most of its European sales go via a Berlin warehouse, some still enter Britain first. Superdry will use bonded warehouses.

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