Posted: Wed 8th Nov 2023
The government's target for increasing the amount of UK exports does not go far enough and it should aim to double the number of small and medium sized enterprises that sell overseas, the exports minister has said.
In its 2021 export strategy, the government set a target of increasing UK exports to £1 trillion by 2030. But speaking to the Times to mark this week's International Trade Week, Lord Offord of Garvel said that goal will be achieved "relatively easily" and ministers should focus on smaller businesses to go even further.
Referring to the 300,000 companies out of the of 2.7m VAT registered companies that export, he said:
"Take out the 10,000 big companies…basically, we are saying 10% of SMEs are exporting. My view is we should be doubling that to 20%."
Lord Offord, who founded Edinburgh-based private equity company Badenoch and Co, said the increase in UK exporters can be driven by the rise of digital service-based companies and the "benefits of Brexit".
He claimed that over the next 10 years an additional 100,000 digital companies will start exporting.
The exports minister admitted that UK businesses exporting to the EU had "been punished in terms of friction" as a result of Brexit, but added "it's now time to turn the dial on this and talk about some of the real benefits of Brexit".
He said those advantages include the UK's increasing use of digital trade documentation and its accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc.
Supporting small businesses to export
A report from Enterprise Nation and The Entrepreneurs Network found that if UK exports had rebounded as strongly as Germany's following the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation would be exporting $111 billion more than it is now. And even if the UK had simply kept pace with other G7 countries, it would be exporting an additional $65 billion.
Many small businesses want to export but they find red tape frustrating and clear advice in short supply. For this reason, Enterprise Nation launched the Go Global programme to provide easy-to-understand guides that focus on trading in different worldwide territories.
Emma Jones CBE, founder of Enterprise Nation, said:
"We know from our own research that the UK has dramatically fallen behind other G7 countries in its exporting capabilities.
"Go Global is about reigniting the UK's appetite to export and ensure that Britain's SMEs have the best conditions possible to flourish on the international stage.
"We know that exporting, whether it be a product or a digital service, is a significant driver of productivity and growth. But many businesses tell us they can't find one single place to find what they need, or when they do find information, it's over-complicated and patchy.
"This international focus on trade is about taking the lead and helping the SME community to confidently access new territories and markets with all the tools they need."