UK arms exports delayed ‘up to six months’ due to Brexit

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British arms manufacturers have been hit by long delays in attempts to export arms overseas due to Brexit bureaucracy, a leading trade body has told MPs.

The Engineering and Machinery Alliance (EMA) said some companies are “waiting up to six months” for government licenses to export to the EU – although the approval time is two weeks.

Jack Semple, the alliance’s policy director, told MPs on the International Trade Committee that industry blames the Joint Export Control Unit (ECJU) for not anticipating the time-consuming Brexit bureaucracy.

“ECJU’s target for granting or rejecting license applications is two weeks, but companies report waiting up to six months,” he said in written testimony. “Companies have not only lost specific orders, but also suffered reputational damage, which undermines their export potential.”

Mr Semple called on the government to introduce “new, more efficient systems”, adding: “We are a smart nation, full of smart people – we can do better”.

Angus MacNeil of the Scottish National Party (SNP), chairman of the international trade committee, said the shipping delays were “symptomatic of a lack of preparedness” for Brexit.

Calling the UK’s exit from the EU a ‘swaggering project’, Mr MacNeil added: ‘There are hardly any sectors left untouched…Brexit is an economic disaster that affects everyone.’

Labor MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow International Trade Secretary, said ‘given the amount of time, public money and preparation that went into our withdrawal from the EU, you would have thought ministers would have had a little more foresight and would have foreseen this”.

The MP added: “It is staggering that the government’s export unit did not anticipate that additional resources would be needed to process export licenses to the EU from the UK.

“Ministers need to pull themselves together and make sure they get export licenses as soon as possible.”

A Commerce Department spokesperson said Politics – who first reported the blockages – that the ECJU “process license applications as quickly as possible, striving to conclude 70% of standard individual export license applications within 20 working days and 99% within 60 working days”.

The spokesperson added: “Due to the robustness of our export control regime, some destinations remain more difficult and will take longer than our target times.”

It comes as retailers and transporters have warned that UK shoppers could see fewer food choices and steep price increases as EU suppliers shun the UK due to customs checks that came into force on January 1st.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said export controls introduced in 2021 had been “terminal” for some UK food companies’ sales in the EU.

“The same could happen under new UK import controls introduced this year. Some EU companies may decide that there are easier places to do business than the UK. “, did he declare.

Meanwhile, union Unite said this week that Brexit customs checks were causing major delays at the Port of Dover – with each driver taking 10-20 minutes to clear checks.

Adrian Jones, national road transport manager at Unite, said The Independent: “Queues and delays will only get longer as tourism and trade resume in the coming weeks.”

Greater disruption has been reported at the French port of Calais due to the extra bureaucracy needed for imports from the EU to the UK since early January.

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