Post-Brexit Trade Rules Face Early Tests

Britain’s first weeks of doing business outside of the EU have been mixed, as goods from large companies mainly sail through ports but many small businesses struggle with the new post-Brexit rules, the Wall Street Journal reported. Still, the true test of the U.K.’s new relationship with the EU will come in the next few weeks, say trade experts and companies, as shipment volumes increase and the difference between teething problems and permanent obstacles becomes more apparent at one of the world’s biggest trade borders. For the first time in almost half a century, goods moving between the EU and U.K. starting Jan. 1 have faced customs checks and the need to meet separate sets of standards and regulations. In an extra complication, goods moving to Northern Ireland—part of the U.K.—from the rest of Britain face checks, following a compromise to avoid a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU. Britain’s big grocers have flagged only minor disruptions to food imports, while the country’s ports report few problems with the container traffic that makes up 60% of U.K. trade or issues with their other major businesses. But many smaller U.K. companies that move goods to the EU via trucks that cross the channel on ships or through the Channel Tunnel say they are experiencing extra costs and big delays—and worry this represents a permanent obstacle for their exports to continental Europe. Read more. (Subscription required.)