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Government help for exporters post-Brexit

Created: January 2017

With international trade firmly at the centre of the UK’s exit negotiations with the EU, the old slogan “export or die” is taking on renewed meaning and greater urgency.

In 2015, the UK exported £510bn of goods and services internationally, ranking it in world terms the 3rd largest exporter of services and the 10th largest exporter of goods. However, government statistics show that only around 1 in 10 firms are exporters (around 220,000 in total), and the view is that there are many more who would like to increase their export business, but need help getting started.

International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, is naturally keen to foster international trade worldwide for the economic good of a post-Brexit UK. So, the launch of the Department of International Trade’s new portal, designed to provide much-needed help to smaller businesses looking to start or expand their export business, represents a timely move.

New help for exporters

Found by logging onto GREAT.gov.UK. and launched under the banner headline “The demand is out there. You should be too.” the site offers help tailored to the needs of exporters both old and new. It’s part of the government’s push designed to get 10,000 more UK businesses exporting by 2020. Through e-exporting, it aims to create another 20,000 online exporters and add £2bn to the UK economy over the next four years.

The site offers several ways of accessing new markets, from a free service to boost a firm’s profile to international buyers, to a searchable directory of current export trade opportunities. These cover markets within and outside the EU. They range from opportunities closer to home such as documentary films in Germany to power transmission equipment in Italy. Further afield, opportunities exist to tender for projects such as solar energy for Brazil, medical devices in China, energy saving solutions in Saudi Arabia, and LED lamps for Kazakhstan.

The Small Business Taskforce

In another initiative designed to protect SMEs post Brexit, the launch of the Small Business Taskforce, backed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and a dozen other organisations, is calling for exports to be protected and a review of the funding for business support to be undertaken.

One of their first submissions to the government was a plea that there should not be any new input taxes or other significant costs levied on businesses for the remainder of this parliament. They have asked the government to consider five key issues as they negotiate Brexit terms:

  • EU workers already in the UK should have long-term residency rights
  • A workable tax regime, and consultation to be had with small businesses ahead of any changes
  • Accessible business support
  • International trade for all
  • Consultation with small businesses on major moves affecting their interests.

An improving picture

Whilst we are only at the beginning of what is likely to be a protracted period of negotiation, international trade has held up well in the period since the Brexit vote. The CBI’s quarterly trends survey published at the end of October revealed that in October manufacturing orders from foreign customers hit their highest level for two and half years, helped no doubt by the fall in the value of the pound.

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