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‘Trade has collapsed’: Germany sees business with UK slump after Brexit

Germany's exports ticked up in January on robust trade with China, but trade with another key trade partner, Great Britain, plummeted after the Britain left the EU.

'Trade has collapsed': Germany sees business with UK slump after Brexit
Southampton harbour. Photo:Andrew Matthews/DPA

The Brexit fallout has continued to hurt commerce with the United Kingdom, with federal statistics office Destatis recording a 29 percent plunge in German exports across the Channel.

Meanwhile, demand for UK goods in Germany collapsed by more than 56 percent, official data showed Tuesday.

Cross-Channel exporters have had to adapt to new customs requirements from January 1, following Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the European Union.

Firms on both sides have since complained of increased bureaucracy and shipment delays as they grapple with the new rules.

BREXIT: What changes in Germany from January 2021?

“Foreign trade with Britain has collapsed,” said LBBW bank economist Jens-Oliver Niklasch.

Overall, German exports rose 1.4 percent month-on-month in seasonally adjusted figures, Destatis said.

But imports sank as coronavirus shutdowns sapped consumer demand in Europe’s top economy.

Imports slumped 4.7 percent, widening Germany’s closely-watched trade surplus to 22.2 billion euros.

Compared with a year ago, before the pandemic ravaged the global economy, exports fell 8.0 percent in January and imports almost 10 percent.

“Consumer demand fell sharply in January due to a lack of opportunities” as the government kept non-essential shops, leisure and cultural centres closed to rein in the coronavirus,  Niklasch.

But demand for “made in Germany” goods was powered by vital trade partner China, which has recovered faster from the virus shock.

Exports to European Union countries plunged six percent year-on-year, while demand for EU goods within Germany was down by almost the same.

Combined with Germany’s struggles to bring down Covid-19 infections despite months of shutdowns, “the January reading is not an indication of renewed German export strength, but rather an alarm bell for the first quarter.”

Member comments

  1. I live in France and my interest in Germany stems from having learnt the language in 1950s school holidays with a lovely family in Rottach-Egern on the Tegernsee in Bavaria. This experience created an impression in me of German working habits which, in the UK, used to be defined thus: ” with working hours (say) from 08.00 to 17.00 the normal Brit worker entered the building on time and was at his/her desk or bench ready to work hard from 08.15, taking 75 minutes for lunch out of the allocated hour, leaving his/her desk or bench at 16.45 to leave the building right on time at 17.00. Our German worker – you’ve guessed it no doubt – was actually working at his/her desk or bench at 08.00 , taking 45 minutes for lunch, leaving the premises having completed his/her work as soon as possible after 17.00″. Does any of this still apply and If so, has it any relevance to the German “problem” of its noteworthy trade surplus?

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BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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