The UK will miss its export targets unless the government does something drastic

The proportion of businesses that ship overseas has stayed steady. The government needs to up the ante if the UK is going to hit £1tn of exports by 2020.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 06 Aug 2014

The government has harked on a heckuva lot about getting Britain exporting, but it seems it could be little more than lip service. While the strong pound isn’t helping by any means, politicians need to pull their socks up if the UK is going to hit the target of £1tn of annual exports by 2020, the Institute for Chartered Accounts in England & Wales said today.

The proportion of businesses that export has stayed steady at 50% over the last four years, according to an ICAEW survey of 600 members. That will need to go up 10% each year for the next six if the government is going to meet its goal, the group warned.

But only 2% of companies that don’t export say they plan to start doing so in the next year. More than three-quarters of non-exporters, most of which were small businesses, said it was because their business is UK-focused.

Although that could indicate many businesses aren’t looking overseas at all, the survey highlighted a lack of solid support for those trying to export. ‘UKTI [UK Trade & Investment] and UKEF [UK Export Finance] aren’t visible enough,’ the ICAEW said. ‘Tax is impractical for exporters – checking EU VAT numbers is often cumbersome.’

‘Exporters are dynamic businesses who are looking for the next opportunity, but the piecemeal funding on offer is hampering their efforts. The government must look to boost in-market knowledge at embassies, so that experts on the ground can help firms navigate their export journey,’ said ICAEW director Stephen Ibbotson.

It’s not the first time the government has been criticised for its piecemeal support for exporters recently. And unless it gets its head in the game it won’t be the last.

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