One of the peculiar, and misleading, arguments of the EU referendum was the suggestion that being members of the EU somehow prevented the UK from exporting to the rest of the world. Of course, that is nonsense – we have been trading with the rest of the world for a millennium, and over half our exports go to non-EU countries. But behind that myth was an interesting truth.
Only around 200,000 British businesses export. This represents around 11% of the businesses that have exportable products and we estimate there are 360,000 businesses that could export tomorrow. Even so, that would only be a third of the potential opportunity to the country and the question is: why are we not exporting a huge amount more?
The answer may be relatively simple. It may simply be that exporting is not seen as an obvious option when people are taking their products to market. Yet we know that businesses who export see far faster growth than those who don’t. Whilst being a member of the EU means that there are very few barriers to exporting – no form filling, no tariffs – exporting to countries that are not in the EU, with a little help, can be a simple task. Indeed, for those experienced in the processes, the act of exporting and shipment can itself be a profit centre.
So how do we meet the challenge of normalising exporting? Make taking a new product to an international market as obvious as selling to the town next door? The answer lies with help and information.
A couple of weeks ago we soft launched GREAT.gov.uk , a website that demystifies the arena of international trade and provides advice and guidance on taking products to overseas markets. Importantly, it generates opportunities for exporters. For those less comfortable with online advice we have international trade advisors, who can be found through the Hereford and Worcester Chamber of Commerce.
Next week, on Friday 9th, I will be putting on an exporting seminar in Wyre Forest. It is being put on to test interest in exporting, to provide advice (from both the government and private operators) and to talk about the opportunities. Everyone who is prepared to look at exporting who hasn’t done so yet should come along. More information can be found from my office on 01562 746771, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The demand for the British brand is out there: you should be too.