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

A month after Brexit became a reality, problems are already mounting up around trade between Austria and the UK, according to reports.

'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

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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MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Austria's recent Migration & Integration report paints a detailed picture of who are the immigrants in the country, where they come from, the languages they speak at home and more.

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

More than a quarter of Austria’s population has a “migration background”, which, according to the statistics institute Statistik Austria, means that they have parents who both were born abroad, regardless of their own nationality or place of birth.

Though migration is a controversial topic for some, Statistik Austria made it clear that if not for it, the country would simply stop growing.

“Austria’s population is growing solely due to immigration. Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”, says Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Not every person with a migration background is considered a foreigner, though. Many of them have parents who were born abroad but naturalised Austrians before having children, or they themselves became Austrian citizens later on.

This is why despite 25.4 percent of the population having a “migration background”, the number of people with foreign nationalities is slightly lower at 17.7 percent.

So, who are these people? 

German is still the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria (218,347 people). But much had changed since 2015 (when there were 170,475 Germans).

The number of Romanians has almost doubled (from 73,374 to 140,454), bringing them to the second-largest foreigner community in Austria, behind German citizens.

In 2015, Turkish was the second-largest foreign nationality in Austria (there were 115,433), but they are now the fourth (with 117,944 people), behind German, Romanian, and Serbians (121,643).

They are helping Austria get younger

In Austria, most people without a migration background (36.2 percent) are between 40 to 64 years old. The share is also quite large among those with 65 or more years, reaching 21.8 percent.

When it comes to people with a migration background, most are between 40 to 64 years old (34.4 percent), followed closely by the 20 to 39-year-olds (33.5 percent), and then the children and adolescents until 19 years of age (22 percent). Only 10.2 percent of the people with a migration background are older than 65.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Regarding nationalities, Austrians have an average age of 44.8, followed by Germans, who average 41.1. The youngest populations are the Afghani living in Austria (24.9 years old on average) and the Syrians (26.3).

Immigration helps keep the Austrian population younger. (Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash)

Language and education

People with a migration background living in Austria have a different educational profile than the population without a migration background, according to the Statistik Austria data.

They are more often represented in the lowest and highest educational segments and less often in the middle-skilled segment than the population without a migration background.

However, the educational level of immigrants is improving over time, on the one hand, due to increasing internal migration, also of higher educated people within the EU. On the other hand, as a result of the selective immigration policy toward third-country nationals by the Red-White-Red Card, the institution said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

In 2021, 19.4 percent of the Austrian population had higher education, such as a university degree, and 10.9 percent had only mandatory primary schooling. Regarding foreigners, 29 percent had university-level education and 25.1 percent had completed only their primary school years.

When it comes to children and the language they speak, German was the first language of about 72 percent of the four and 5-year-old children in elementary educational institutions in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

With just under six percent each, Turkish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BKS) were the most common non-German first languages. Around two percent each spoke Romanian, Arabic or Albanian, followed by Hungarian (one percent).

Less than one percent each for Persian, Polish, Slovakian, English, Russian and Kurdish, respectively, as the first languages. Languages other than those mentioned were spoken by slightly more than five percent.

And who is naturalising Austrian?

Not all foreigners become Austrian, even if they have been in the country for decades. One of the reasons is that the process is expensive, but also because it requires applicants to give up their previous citizenship – something many are unwilling to do.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

According to the report, in 2021, most foreign citizens who naturalised Austrian were from Turkey originally (1,100), followed by Bosnia (921), Serbia (782), Afghanistan (545), and Syria (543).

More than one-third of the people naturalising Austrian last year were already born in Austria, and most of the naturalisations were of young people between 20 and 40 years old.