It’s one year past Brexit, and while the UK has not yet experienced the dizzying highs nor the dystopian lows that were foretold, businesses have had to contend with new trade barriers, price rises, staff shortages, delays and more, writes Paul Farley. Arguably, a good deal of this disruption can be attributed to Covid-19 – but is it possible to disentangle the two? 

On 31st December 2020, the year-long transition period that followed the UK’s departure from the EU ended, together with the nation’s membership of the single market and customs union. After four-and-a-half years of countdowns, negotiations and extensions, Brexit was finally – in Boris Johnson’s words – “done”.

Overshadowed by a surging pandemic, it has been difficult to tell how life, and business, have been impacted by this new status quo. 

Last summer, the Financial Times reported that almost a third of British companies trading with the EU had suffered a decline or loss of business since the post-Brexit rules took effect on 1st January – and that 17% of them had stopped — either temporarily or permanently — since the start of the 2021. In November, The Independent reported that Brexit had hit UK/EU trade in Q221 to the tune of £17b – with trade with the rest of the world during that period up just +1% – as new costs and red tape made their mark.

Arguably, a lack of HGV drivers and European workers, delays at the ports and a greater reliance on local manufacture could be more symptomatic of a pandemic than any fresh political direction – but, following the Chancellor’s autumn Budget statement, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, Richard Hughes, was more specific in his attempts to disentangle the two, stating that the long-term impact of Brexit on the UK economy would be worse than the pandemic’s, reasserting the office’s assumption that leaving the EU would “reduce our long-run GDP by around -4%” while the effect of the pandemic would reduce that GDP output “by a further -2%”.

With no clear answer in sight, Furniture News asked several members of the trade to reveal how they felt Brexit had impacted their businesses, one year on – and whether it was possible to set this apart from the pandemic which has overshadowed it …

Read what they had to say in January's Furniture News, here