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UK exports are hampered by cargo costs

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Record shipping costs are hurting the ability of British companies to export outside the European Union, dampening one of the apparent benefits of Brexit, a leading consultancy has warned.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research said that long-haul shipping costs had almost tripled compared with pre-pandemic levels because of higher fuel and container costs, surging demand for goods and port disruption caused by the war in Ukraine. In the United States, the Biden administration has gone to war with companies that control the Pacific shipping sector, accusing them of raising prices by 1,000 per cent and of stoking inflation.

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The CEBR research found that short-haul shipping costs for British businesses to countries such as Germany had gone from about 3.5 per cent of the value of the exports to 7.3 per cent this year. For longer-haul sea routes outside Europe, the jump was from 7.5 per cent to as much as 20.4 per cent.

Douglas McWilliams, deputy chairman of the CEBR, said: “The relatively weak performance of UK exports outside the EU can to a considerable extent be explained by the impact of rising shipping costs and should not be used to deflect the argument that Brexit has affected exports.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, exports outside the EU have dropped from 54 per cent of UK trade in the second half of 2019 to 48 per cent in February to April this year.