With Askar Sheibani,

CEO, Comtek Network Systems UK Ltd and chair, Deeside Business Forum

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), within the last quarter of 2022, the UK imported about £33billion more than it exported to the EU.

This is the worst performance of the UK export trade balance since records began in 1997.

The ONS also reported that during the same period, the UK's total balance of trade with the rest of the world dived down to a record low of £11.4billion. During the same period, exports within the rest of the advanced economies increased by 4% above the 2018 level according to the 'World Trade Monitor' in the Netherlands.

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This is a shocking testimony that Brexit has caused fundamental deep-rooted damage to British exports. The UK is strangely unique in wanting to construct trading barriers with its closest trading partner and damage its economy. All the hype and promises of free trade deals with the rest of the world have hardly materialised. The trade deal signed by Australia will have practically no impact on the UK's massive export trade deficit.

The UK Government estimates that the trade agreement with Australia will increase the UK's GDP by a mere 0.1% over 15 years.

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Catherine Mann, a policy maker in the Bank of England, believes that Brexit is adding to the cost-of-living crisis in the UK and has added further inflation problems. Seventeen percent of German companies have stopped trading with the UK due to the extra burden of the customs bureaucracy and costs.

North Wales is the UK's largest manufacturing hub. We manufacture and export all over the world. We can export far more and help to change the UK's balance of trade to positive.

Unfortunately, the UK government has become even more creative in building great walls of bureaucracy and unnecessary barriers for us.

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For instance, trying to obtain an export licence is very complex and can take, on occasions, more than a year. Any simple administration mistakes can delay and kill trade. There is so much complexity now in international trade that most small businesses are reluctant to waste their time and get involved.

There are even more restrictions on exporting technology goods as the government is paranoid about the products which could be used for the military. You have to declare if a product may be classified as dual use. Nearly all technology products, such as a mobile phones, could be used in the military, so it makes it very time-consuming and expensive to convince the officials to use a common sense approach and issue the export license with speed, so our exporters can carry on with their trade.

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The UK government must simplify all the administration and remove unnecessary barriers to exporting. We should make it much easier to trade seamlessly with our closest trading partners within the EU.

All the rules and regulations that create barriers to efficient international trade need to be modernised and upgraded to make it easier for UK exporters.

The culture within the export control section of the Department for International Trade must change to an entrepreneurial one and aim at issuing a licence within 24 hours.