Last reviewed 24 January 2022

As its research continues to show poor overseas trade growth, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has published a Trade Manifesto arguing that a new generation of exporters is needed to power economic growth.

BCC research also highlights that exporters are facing a uniquely wide range of issues, from unprecedented inflationary pressures and global supply chain crises to a raft of new requirements flowing from the EU trade deal.

In the final quarter (Q4) of 2021, just over a quarter of exporting firms (29%) saw their overseas sales increase while almost half (47%) saw no change and the balance (24%) reported a decrease.

The Manifesto sets out a comprehensive list of steps to get more UK businesses, rather than the current 10%, involved in international trade.

It is making the move after 23% of firms surveyed said finding a business partner or distributor overseas would encourage them to either start exporting or export more. A further 16% of firms also said support with trade documentation would encourage them to start exporting or increase the amount of business they do overseas.

BCC Director General Shevaun Haviland said: “Our research shows that overseas trade fell off a cliff in early 2020; just 8% of UK exporters saw any increase in the second quarter of that year. Almost two years later and the figures are still way below where they need to be, with only around a quarter reporting improvement”.

Steps to recovery

The Manifesto sets out a number of steps that the UK Government could take to help firms trade with the EU and to make sure that any new trade agreements put the interests of business at their heart. These include:

  • streamlining customs and trade processes to reduce paperwork and delays

  • developing more business-friendly rules on cross-border VAT

  • bringing back, and boosting, the Brexit SME Support Fund to help firms adapt.

More widely, it suggests:

  • creating a Business and Trade Growth Office at the Department for International Trade to help smaller businesses get involved in exporting

  • providing better access for UK professional services and mutual recognition of qualifications

  • setting rules on trade that support the future exports of environmental goods and services.