UK businesses upbeat about prospects for trade with EU

British exporters are confident in the potential of EU markets for future trade, according to a new study by the Institute of Directors (IoD).

UK with the EU flag
Despite Brexit, the European Union remains the market where British exporters see the most opportunities for growth over the next five years, according to a new survey.

Europe remains stable market

In its report ‘Going Global: Trends in Trade’, which was based on interviews with more than 800 company bosses, the IoD pointed out that the EU had seen stronger growth as a market for UK exporters than either Asia or North America over the past two years.Although business leaders saw potential in both Asia and North America over the coming five years, “the EU remains the region with the highest expectations for growth”.In the report, the IoD called on the government and businesses to work closely together to develop a truly ‘global Britain’ strategy and to develop a comprehensive trade agenda for the medium term that successive governments could follow.In particular, the IoD said the Department for International Trade should feed into the upcoming Immigration Bill to make sure that labour mobility is a key cross-departmental focus and ensure the continuity of existing trade agreements.
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Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the IoD, said, “Trade is clearly on the up: a remarkable 64 per cent of IoD members are now active in overseas markets. But there is no room for complacency – the immediate focus should be on reaching a successful deal with the EU that puts maintaining market access at the heart of its priorities. Steadying the ship will enable the UK to navigate a clear path to a truly global future. “The importance of the EU as a growth market for IoD members combined with the clear advantage that business leaders see in new trade agreements shows just how eager businesses are to embrace global Britain.“Our members are already showing the strength of British business on the world stage, but the statistics also show that we need to get real about trade, and fast. Going global is as much about opportunities in Europe as it is further afield, and this should be reflected in how the government shapes post-Brexit Britain.“Businesses will always be those on the frontline of international trade, if the government is to fulfil its global promise, it has to engage with the business community to ensure they feel adequately supported in the coming years.”

Business confident about post-Brexit prospects

The IoD report coincided with publication of an HSBC survey of more than 6,000 companies indicating that three-quarters of firms remain optimistic about their international business prospects. While some 38 per cent felt Brexit would have a negative impact on business, while a third thought it could be positive.Amanda Murphy, head of commercial banking for HSBC UK, said, “The combined survey and forecast data we’ve gathered both point towards a really strong near-term outlook for UK exporters and importers.“Undeterred by future post-EU uncertainty, businesses clearly aim to capitalise on the cheaper pound and rising demand in key markets to boost their overseas sales.”

Independent trading nation

A Department for International Trade spokesman said, “Leaving the European Union will allow the UK to operate as an independent trading nation for the first time in 40 years.“The government has made clear that it will seek to secure a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU as well as capitalising on the IMF’s prediction that 90 per cent of global growth will come from outside the EU over the coming years.“There is clear evidence that demand for our goods and services is growing across the world. Exports increased by 12.1 per cent over the last year, with the trade deficit narrowing by £12.8 billion. We are also developing a new export strategy, which will offer greater support for businesses of all sizes to target new markets and boost exports.”For related news and features, visit our Brexit section. Find out more about our upcoming Relocate AwardsRelocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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