Calls for action as UK exports stagnate

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has issued a warning that export sales growth has stalled, leaving the country trailing its European peers.

Brexit and the red tape which has been introduced in trading with the European Union is part of the problem but the organisation’s head of trade policy said the country had to address the barriers to trade which still exist for businesses of all sizes.

The BCC undertook a survey of over 2,700 UK exporters which revealed that export sales growth has been effectively stagnant for the past year. The BCC’s quarterly Trade Confidence Outlook showed the proportion of exporters reporting increased overseas sales to be unchanged from Q4 at 29%, while those reporting a decrease rose 1 point to 25%, marking a historical high.

The data showed that manufacturers were more likely to report increased export sales than either business to business service firms (such as lawyers or accountants) or business to consumer service firms (like online clothing stores).

Conversely, B2B service exporters were more likely than either manufacturers or B2C service exporters to expect profitability to increase in the coming year. Exporters were also more likely than non-exporters to expect increases to their prices in coming months

Responding to the findings, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, William Bain said: “This data confirms our concerns – that for the last year there was a broadly flat picture for UK exports. This is in contrast with the performance of our near neighbours, with Germany’s exports both within and outside the Single Market steaming ahead by double digit margins and with trade losses from the pandemic already effectively recovered.

“UK exporters are facing the headwinds of higher red tape costs from trading with the EU, raised raw material pressures, and ongoing issues in global shipping markets. If we are to realise the aspirations of the UK Government’s Export Strategy then 2022 has to be the year where these structural factors holding back our exporters are addressed.”

Bain added: “Sustained export growth should be powering our economic recovery from the pandemic. Chambers and their members are already working hard to increase exports but need more substantive measures from Government now.”

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