The government responds to the Road Haulage Association’s claims that trade going into the EU for Britain fell by 68%.
The Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster slapped down the claims saying “We do not recognise” these figures.
The two prominent claims and counterclaims are set out below.
According to a RHA survey “Exports going through British ports to the EU fell by 68% last month compared with January last year” (Observer, 07/02/21)
We do not recognise this figure and further details from the survey have not been shared.
Flows are monitored on a daily basis by the Border Operations Centre. In the last full week (30 Jan to 5 Feb) both outbound and inbound flows (across all UK ports) were close to normal, at 95% outbound and 96% inbound, in spite of the impact of COVID lockdowns on trade.
For the same week, flows outbound specifically across the Short Straits were at 82%.
The Port of Dover’s own data confirms that volumes are close to normal.
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the RHA “told the Observer that in addition to the 68% fall-off in exports, about 65%-75% of vehicles that had come over from the EU were going back empty” (Observer, 07/02/21)
This does not reflect the data from our French counterparts, which puts the figure at closer to 50%.
It is an entirely normal part of freight flows to have empty lorries on the outbound leg from the UK into the EU – this has always been the case.
Indeed, estimates suggest that prior to 1 January, around 30% of all outbound lorries were empty.
Taking the impact of Covid-19 on economic activity into account, the current levels are not surprising when compared to normal outbound flows.