‘Costs and hurdles’: How Brexit is already hurting Austria-UK trade

'Costs and hurdles': How Brexit is already hurting Austria-UK trade
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP
A month after Brexit became a reality, problems are already mounting up around trade between Austria and the UK, according to reports.

Up to 80 percent of shipments of goods between the Austrian state of Styria and the UK are incorrectly declared, according to the Internationalisation Centre in Styria (ICS), and it is believed the number is similarly high for the rest of Austria, Wiener Zeitung reports.

Incorrectly declared shipments of goods are messing up the transport logistics, meaning longer delivery times and higher transport costs. 

Austrian companies are now facing having to pay the extra administrative costs and hurdles.

Many companies previously only active in the EU area are not prepared for the new export and import registrations and the bureaucratic requirements associated with them. 

The Austrian Trade Commissioner to the UK, Christian Kesberg, told Wiener Zeitung that UK customs agents are “in short supply and expensive.”

Companies that do not have their own branch in Great Britain may need to use customs agents to import goods into Austria. They are not easy to find and charge “exorbitant prices” due to the high demand. 

According to the Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), there is a “serious bottleneck” in the capacities of British customs agents caused by the volume of work that has increased fivefold overnight.

Mariana Kühnel, Deputy Secretary General of the Austrian Economic Chamber, says although conditions have ”fundamentally changed” for Austrian companies doing business in the UK, the United Kingdom will “remain an important trading partner for Austria in the future”. 

She says for smaller companies with little experience of doing business with non-EU “third countries”, the coronavirus crisis management has taken priority over Brexit preparations. Information, service and advice are available from the Chamber of Commerce's Brexit Infopoint

“We stand by the companies with words and deeds,” says Kühnel, explaining delays and incorrect declarations in freight traffic are among the “long-foreseen aftermath” of Great Britain's departure from the EU's internal market and customs union. 

There are indications that carriers are refusing to accept shipments for the UK. At the same time, Austrian branches in Great Britain are reporting delays of several days in delivering goods and primary materials from Austria, says Kühnel. 

However, in general, forecasts see the Austrian economy as being only marginally affected by the British exit from the EU; with estimates showing an annual decline of 0.05 percent of GDP.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, the current start-up difficulties in the movement of goods should be overcome in three to six months.


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