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  • BBC News

Brexit: One year on, the economic impact is starting to show

A dozen mild-mannered small business owners pop up on my screen from sectors ranging from chemicals, to financial services, to aerospace, catering and small gift box providers.

Having been shown the data from a British Chambers of Commerce survey of the impact of Brexit's first year I asked to chat to some of them to find out more.

The business owners I spoke to have pretty much the same reflection on different aspects of the reality of one year of trading outside the Single Market and Customs Union. It's clearly been challenging: "Frustrating. Scary. Huge drop in sales. Rendered uncompetitive in Europe."

When I put to them what ministers have suggested privately - that some sections of British business need to be as prepared as the best-prepared bigger businesses, it got a little testy.

"I found it astounding that they are telling us to get used to it," said Adrian Hanrahan, of Robinson's chemicals, who is dealing with a new set of UK regulations entirely duplicating EU requirements.

A gift box distributor, Karen Lowen, says it's cheaper for her to supply the US and Australia than Europe.

Meanwhile, a manufacturer of cutting edge green radiators says the expansion of his factory in Birmingham will now take place in Poland. One participant's voice cracks as he tells me they are fighting to survive after a century-and-a-half in business.

A year on from the signing of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement - the real economic start of Brexit - we can start to see some of the changes in how Britain trades.

Despite the overwhelming influence of the lockdowns, and post-pandemic bounce back on all aspects of the economy, it is possible in the data and in the direct experience of hundreds of businesses, to see the impact of Brexit.

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