A Tory MP who campaigned for Brexit said it was “monstrous” that UK businesses now have to fill in forms to trade with Europe.
Desmond Swayne, a supporter of the Leave Means Leave group, was mocked for complaining about the new bureaucracy a hard Brexit had created.
British companies wishing to trade on the continent now have to deal with significant additional red tape since Britain left the European Union, its single market and customs union.
Speaking in the Commons during a discussion on trade, Sir Desmond said: “British aid has promoted trade in Africa by making borders transparent through the digitization of all administrative processes.
“Is this part of our agenda for trade with the EU? It’s monstrous that we fill in forms.”
Mike Freer, Minister for International Trade, responded that the government plans to improve border systems by 2025.
The government’s border strategy will not, however, remove customs and veterinary checks on goods, which are required by the UK’s new status.
Naomi Smith, CEO of internationalist campaign group Best for Britain, said: “Brexit has created mountains of paperwork and heavy red tape for businesses and anyone who claims otherwise betrays either their own duplicity or ignorance.
“We’ve had frictionless trade within the EU, but now that Brexit has happened the government must work to reduce the barriers to trade it has created or we will continue to see jobs and companies move abroad.
Goods leaving UK ports for the Continent are now subject to full customs checks, meaning they require full HMRC declarations, veterinary and commercial information, and sometimes physical checks.
New trade figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday show that UK exports to EU countries have fallen by a record £20bn in just 20 months.
UK exports to the EU fell 12% between January and December last year, compared to the previous year, the main reasons being supply chain disruption, new trade barriers and the additional red tape caused by Brexit.
Sales to the EU fell more sharply in 2021 than exports to any other country in the world, the data shows.
Non-EU exports also fell by 6%, suggesting that the rest of the world is not stepping in to fill the void.
Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, however, dismissed the figures and said evidence that Brexit had affected trade was “sparse and scattered”.