Brexit takes its toll on hardwood

“Importers say Brexit must be resolved if hardwood is to recover”

As we bid adieu to one Prime Minister, we can only hope that her replacement gets Brexit done and dusted. The reason for that is that industry voices appear to have reached a consensus: hardwood’s first quarter failed to live up to expectations, and it’s almost certainly down to uncertainty over the UK’s imminent departure from the EU.

One importer told the press: “Business for the quarter as a whole looks OK. But it’s got steadily more difficult and it’s hard to conclude anything other than it’s due to Brexit. February and March were worse than January, and April was worst of all, with tough conditions compounded by the Easter break.”

At the crux of this poor performance lies a general uncertainty about post-Brexit life. Although the hardwood trade is confident that relevant regulations (EUTR and FLEGT) are being written into UK law, it’s also painfully aware that due diligence will now have to be undertaken on imports from the EU. A second importer recently noted that this “will entail quite an additional administrative burden,” for a number of his peers.

Beyond the specifics, hardwood suffers from the same worries as every other industry that’s exposed to trade between the UK and the EU. Will there be a deal or not? And how will Brexit affect the economy? Answers to these questions will hopefully begin to take shape in the next few months after Mrs. May’s eventual successor takes office.

At present, there doesn’t seem to be any structural weakness in the hardwood market that is not accounted for by a): Brexit, and b): a general malaise in hardwood that is evident all through Europe (and which may well be connected to Brexit, or other geo-political difficulties). That, at least, is a positive – as it raises the possibility that, when clarity over Brexit finally emerges, things might go back to normal.

An importer cautioned that this wouldn’t happen overnight, though, saying: “even when there is a Brexit decision one way or the other, things won’t pick up immediately. The year definitely won’t live up to the expectations we had entering it. If everything is settled soon, we may see some upturn in the third and fourth quarters.”

Beyond Brexit, the trade war between China and the US is having a negligible impact on the UK hardwood market, and supply remains strong for the country’s most popular species.

At Quercus, we consider hardwoods a speciality – and that won’t change post-Brexit, when we promise to deliver a service that’s just as consistent as it is today. If you’re in the market for high-quality timber that meets all the relevant regulatory and ethical standards, get in touch with us on 0845 50 50 311, or via the contact form on this website.