81 percent of businesses in the scheme were SMEs
British businesses have received £7.4 billion from the government to export to countries overseas, providing a significant boost to Britain’s workforce. Since the pandemic, businesses have struggled when it comes to overseas exports, with further challenges in supply chains since Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, the government is determined to help businesses in their overseas projects with the UK Export Finance (UKEF) support scheme.
According to a report by UKEF, 83 per cent of businesses to receive support were located outside of London - and 81 per cent were SMEs. The government-backed scheme has helped support over 72,000 jobs in the country, adding a total of £4.3 billion to the UK economy. Businesses across the country have received the highest level of government support for exports in 14 years, bringing the total support to £33.4 billion over the last five years. The scheme has helped facilitate British export to 61 countries in the past year alone.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Secretary of State for International Trade, said: “The UK is awash with untapped export potential. We have opened the door to the world with historic trade deals and now we are helping businesses walk through it. That’s why our national export credit agency, UK Export Finance, is boosting firms’ ability to export to the world with record-breaking support year after year.”
These milestones were underpinned by the ‘game-changing’ General Export Facility – a product designed specifically to give SME exporters more flexibility in accessing trade finance, unlocking almost £250 million in working capital loans. A further £300 million was also awarded to 263 UK companies supplying to infrastructure projects UKEF has financed across the globe, supporting UK exports. These include doors made in Birmingham sold to an airport in Ghana, fridges made in Norfolk sold to a hotel in Dubai and critical medical supplies shipped from South Wales to hospitals in Zambia.
UKEF has also provided £27 million to support importers buying from UK SMEs using its Standard Buyer Loans Guarantee Scheme, allowing UK companies to get paid upfront while overseas buyers benefit from more flexible repayment terms. As the need to address climate change becomes increasingly urgent, UKEF has launched a new mission statement, putting sustainability at the centre of its purpose.
In its report, UKEF set new targets to reduce absolute emissions of oil and gas sector exposure by 75% by 2030. They also aim to reduce the economic emissions intensity of power sector exposure by 58% by 2030 as it seeks to operate on a net-zero basis by 2050. Further to its mission statement, UKEF was also recently recognised as the top export credit agency for sustainable financing in 2021, according to an independent ranking of ECA-backed deals. UKEF maintained sizeable levels of financial support in its first year without backing overseas fossil fuel projects, supporting clean energy, healthcare and critical infrastructure sectors with over £3.6 billion.
Mike Freer, Minister for Exports, added: “It was a pioneering and crucial step for UKEF to end its support for fossil fuel projects over a year ago. Now, with the new targets and mission statement we are launching today, UKEF is going even further to be a driving force behind the UK’s role in supporting the global energy transition. This can only be made possible with the skills and expertise of businesses across the UK, and UKEF is primed to offer its support as they seize these opportunities.”
The UKEF provided £8.2 billion of support through its Temporary COVID-19 Risk Framework since its inception. The department generated a net profit of £324 million for the Treasury, protecting the interests of the UK taxpayer. Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE, Chairman of the British Exporters Association, said: “UK Export Finance (UKEF) has provided vital support to exporters during the pandemic and is setting the pace amongst the ECAs in the global transition to sustainable trade. We at BExA look forward to working with UKEF over the coming year to continue to refine and develop its products to simplify and accelerate export journeys for UK SMEs.” This comes after the government announced major plans to unlock around 100 trade barriers worth more than £20 billion to help more businesses export.