Trading for the future: preparing for all eventualities

Our Chairman Neil Ashbridge takes a critical look at the latest government announcements impacting on future trade and exports.

Posted by Neil Ashbridge

Fri 31st, Aug

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have long been calling for clarity for business in a post Brexit world. The BCC has just published its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook which indicated that despite a strong performance in many cases, economic and political factors remain the key concerns. The volatility around sterling as well as the escalating labour shortage are both highlighted by the survey of over 2,600 exporters. Addressing these issues must be a priority for the government.

The first tranche of technical notices aimed at giving businesses and consumers advice on the implications of a 'no deal' exit from the European Union, has also been published to mixed reviews. As supporters on both sides of the Brexit argument become increasingly entrenched and the Treasury is once again being accused of promoting “project fear”, away from the media, businesses are quietly trying to assess what this all means for them. A no-deal Brexit is likely to be disruptive to a large proportion of the 46,000 businesses in the Liverpool city region so any clarity is to be welcomed. However if the Government realistically expects business to be ready for all eventualities on Friday 29 March, then much more specific and practical advice is needed sooner rather than later.   

The BCC has particularly welcomed the plans for VAT, which businesses feared could cause a cash-flow 'time bomb' after the UK's exit from the EU, and on which they have been campaigning. However concerns remain around cross-border trade and customs, where changes are set to impact businesses from day one in the event of a 'no deal' outcome as well as banking and financial services, where changes could have a significant impact on non-financial firms trading across borders.

Export Strategy

The Government’s recently published Export Strategy strikes a much more positive note. It sets a new national challenge to raise UK exports as a share of GDP from 30% to 35% through encouraging, inspiring and supporting more businesses to export.

International trade is at the core of the mission of Chambers of Commerce all across the UK.

Every year, Chambers directly support more than 30,000 businesses exporting goods and services overseas, working with other private sector organisations, and with the agencies and departments of HM Government.  

We particularly welcome the increased focus on the practicalities of exporting, including the role of our existing exporters to enable them to inspire other businesses and facilitate peer-to-peer learning. The strategy highlights the importance of improved communication with businesses to provide information, advice and practical assistance on exporting as well as signposting for SMEs to support access to new markets and private sector support.

The Chamber’s recently established International Trade Club is an excellent example of how this can work in practice. This Trade Club is exclusively for exporters and importers of goods and services, companies seeking international partners, shipping and logistics companies who are looking to actively expand their network of contacts, share the views on international trade and exchange practical advice. The first event is on Friday 5 October and you can find out more details here.

Our aim is to provide companies with the right kind of knowledge to prepare for different trading outcomes, working with specialists to provide insight and advice. Future events include Preparing for trade in a post BREXIT world on 28 September (details here) and looking at business opportunities in the USA (10 October) and South America (10 September).

BCC Quarterly Economic Survey (Q3)

Finally, a reminder that the QES for Q3 is now open. As the largest and most representative independent business survey of its kind in the UK I would encourage you all to take a few minutes to complete the survey.

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