Half of British businesses exporting goods to the European Union are experiencing difficulties due to Brexit, a UK trade body said Thursday.

In a survey, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) found 49 percent of exporters were finding it "difficult" or "very difficult" to work under the new rules and called for the government to help.

Among manufacturers, who are highly dependent on the EU market, an even higher figure of 52 percent described the situation since Brexit took full effect in January as "very difficult".

The survey questioned 1,000 mostly small- or medium-sized businesses between January 8 and 31, including 70 exporters of goods and services.

Business owners said they faced higher costs and administrative red tape, as well as delays and confusion over which rules to follow.

"Trading businesses -- and the UK's chances at a strong economic recovery -- are being hit hard by changes at the border," said Adam Marshall, the BCC's director-general.

While the UK and the EU eliminated some trade frictions in their divorce deal, the arrangement is far less beneficial to Britain than membership in the bloc's single market.

Moving goods from Britain to the EU has got more complicated since Brexit took full effect
Moving goods from Britain to the EU has got more complicated since Brexit took full effect AFP / BEN STANSALL

The free trade agreement was reached late last year, but officials left "businesses in the dark on the detail right until the last minute", making it hard for them to get ready in time, said Marshall.

For some firms these concerns put their future in doubt, he warned, urging the government to do all it can to reduce hassle at the borders.

The BCC said the situation could get worse if the UK sticks to plans to introduce additional checks on food and plants in April and full customs checks on imports in July.

The Road Haulage Association recently estimated that exports to the EU via British ports had fallen by 68 percent in January compared with last year.

It cited the effects both of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

The British government has long warned that Brexit would bring short-term upheaval.

British exporters are now required to show a large amount of documentation to prove their goods can enter the European single market, which is proving costly and time-consuming and clogging up border crossings.

The boss of sports fashion retailer JD Sports, Peter Cowgill, told the BBC on Tuesday that Brexit had proved "considerably worse" than he expected.