Europe

German exports to UK fell almost a third in January as Brexit hit

BERLIN (Reuters) – German exports to the United Kingdom fell by 30% on the year in January as the impact of Brexit turned Europe’s largest economy away from the UK, exacerbating the hit to business from the coronavirus pandemic, official figures showed on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Cars intended for export wait at the port for loading, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Bremerhaven, Germany, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

The UK left the European Union’s orbit at the end of last year, turning its back on a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project for an uncertain post-Brexit future in its most significant geopolitical shift since the loss of empire.

The formal split ended the UK’s transition period out of the bloc – de facto membership – and raised barriers to trade, though German businesses had already begun reducing business with Britain.

“Since 2016 – the year of the Brexit referendum – German exports to the UK have steadily declined,” Germany’s Federal Statistics Office said in a statement, commenting on the preliminary figures. It did not give a sector-by-sector breakdown.

The Statistics Office attributed the January slump to “the effects of Brexit after the year 2020, which was marked by the Corona pandemic.”

The impact of COVID-19 meant that the UK economy was smaller in January of this year than the year before. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the UK and euro zone economies will not return to their pre-pandemic levels until next year.

Ahead of the formal departure from the EU at the end of last year, British businesses rushed to bring goods into the country – stockpiling that often results in a dip in activity later.

In 2020, German exports to the UK fell by 15.5% compared to 2019, recording the biggest year-on-year decline since the financial and economic crisis in 2009, when they fell by 17.0%, the Office said.

In 2015 German exports to the UK amounted to 89.0 billion euros. In 2020, German they totalled 66.9 billion euros.

Imports to Germany from the UK totalled 34.7 billion euros in 2020, down 9.6 % compared to 2019.

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