ParcelHero is calling on the government to take urgent action as official figures reveal over a third of UK importers are struggling at borders and Northern Ireland trade is in a downward spiral.

The latest ONS economy report highlights soaring problems at customs and a crisis developing in the province.

Transport costs, border disruption and customs duties problems soared in the two-week period between 24 January and 7 February.

David Jinks, ParcelHero head of consumer research, said the new figures highlight the full impact of Brexit on businesses.

He said: “The ONS report shows a sharp escalation in Brexit problems. They increased markedly in the two weeks from 25 January to 7 February compared to the preceding fortnight, 11-24 January.”

Jinks pointed to ONS figures which show that border disruption resulted in 35% of businesses experiencing importing challenges, compared to 25% of importers reporting challenges in the previous two weeks.

“Similarly, 25% of exporters recorded disruption at borders, compared to just 19% reporting disruption in the preceding fortnight,” he added.

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Jinks said the figures also showed rocketing transport costs with 34% of businesses experienced exporting challenges because of a rise in transportation costs.

“That’s up significantly from the 25% experiencing transport cost issues in the previous two-week period,” he said.

In addition 26% of businesses experienced exporting challenges because of customs duties or levies, up from 16% of exporters reporting issues in the previous two-week period, according to ONS research.

The figures also show 26% experienced importing challenges because of customs fees between 25 January to 7 February, compared to 16% in the preceding two weeks.

"Perhaps even more concerning, in terms of both trade and politics, are the escalating problems experienced by those shipping goods to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Protocol is in danger of unravelling entirely if these trends continue,” Jinks warned.

"A massive 44% of retailers and wholesalers reported the volume of goods they shipped to Northern Ireland decreased in the latest two-week period, compared to the previous fortnight with 31.5% of manufacturers reporting their export volumes to Northern Ireland fell during the latest period.

“Of all businesses who had sent, or intended to send, goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in the last two weeks, 38% reported sending fewer goods.”

Jinks called on the government to take urgent action. He said: “These problems will only escalate as a waiver on customs declarations on parcels sent from the rest of the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland runs out on 31 March, and certification requirements ramp-up on supermarket goods in April. The government urgently needs to renegotiate these deadlines with the EU.”