Given being a member of the EU means trade can flow easily between the UK and the rest of the trading block, many fear Brexit would strike a huge blow to British SMEs’ exporting opportunities. Fortunately, there may be reason to feel slightly more optimistic about future international trade, according to a new survey from WorldFirst, the payment services company.
Having surveyed 1,071 UK SMEs in Q1, the researchers found that one in four are looking to export to a new country in the next quarter. Moreover, 30% of small-business owners are now positive about their prospects for international growth, representing a 5% jump from the last quarter of 2017 when confidence was at an all-time low. Moreover, small businesses transferred £48,000 overseas in Q1 2018 on average as a result of international trade, again representing a 5% increase from Q4 2017.
And it seems as if plenty of small firms are hedging their bets by looking outside the trading block as the negotiations with the EU proceed. Of the top ten markets that received the biggest increase of payments from UK SMEs in Q1, seven were outside the EU: Turkey, Norway, Morocco, Singapore, Russia, Indonesia and the UAE. Still, Romania topped the list with an impressive growth of 248.57%. The country was followed by Turkey and Poland that saw a massive 154.47% and 116.11% increase in overseas payments respectively.
That being said, import and export to countries outside and inside the EU remained pretty much the same from before during the period.
However, despite there being a sense of optimism among small-business owners, many feel more could be done to boost international trade. In fact, 46% wanted extended external support to grow internationally. Particularly, 18% want help to find international partners and 17% wish the government could offer guidance on how to trade overseas.
Commenting on the research, Jeremy Cook, chief economist at WorldFirst, said: “It is promising to see so many UK SMEs starting to look past their Brexit blues and develop coping strategies to push their exporting aspirations forward. The UK government has not been shy in promoting the benefits of building a nation of exporters over the last year, but this survey shows that more needs to be done to support our smaller businesses.
“These SMEs will be our global exporting pioneers post-Brexit and it is vital that the government and wider industry does all they can to support them. This could mean anything from facilitating connections between UK small businesses and foreign counterparts, to offering advice and training on how to do business and communicate with international trading partners.”
Having seen uncertainties about the divorce from the EU negatively affect everything from recruitment to VC funding, it’s refreshing to get some good news as the conscious uncoupling rushes closer and closer.