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Complex regulations and red tape deter UK’s clothing and footwear exports to Europe: Study


Despite exports of beauty and health, gardening and DIY products remaining robust, complex Brexit regulations and red tape at the border have deterred clothing and footwear exports from the UK to Europe, suggests a new study by online marketplace Tradebyte and consultancy Retail Economics.

As per the study, footwear and clothing exports to the EU dropped by more than 50 per cent to £2.7 billion (€3.17 billion) in 2023 from £7.4 billion in 2019. This decline occurs despite the European e-commerce market being highly developed, contributing £323 billion annually to EU economies.

Established post-Brexit, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, allows for tariff-free trade but fails to mitigate trade barriers effectively. According to the House of Commons, UK exported goods and services worth approximately £340 billion to the EU in 2022, while accounting for 40 per cent of the total.Imports from the EU totaled around £432 billion. That same year, the UK had a £5 billion trade surplus with non-EU countries but faced a £92 billion trade deficit with the EU.

Since leaving the EU single market, the UK has been subject to the same stringent checks as other third-party countries. Clothing and footwear exports face specific EU laws, such as meeting the General Product Safety Directive requirements, limiting certain chemicals, and adhering to intellectual property laws. Baby and children's clothing must also meet higher safety standards.

In contrast, the UK has been more lenient in implementing similar measures on EU imports, potentially disadvantaging its domestic industries. According to the ‘UK in a Changing Europe’, stricter controls on UK exports compared to EU imports have created an uneven playing field, making British traders, bear costly and time-consuming checks while EU businesses export to the UK with fewer barriers.

UK supply chains continue to grapple with the pandemic's lingering impact, the Russia-Ukraine war, and higher interest rates, further affecting export numbers.


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