Although UK businesses are divided on the impact of Brexit on their international trade, they appear to be cautiously optimistic for the future, according to a new report by Deloitte.
Almost three quarters (74%) of participants whose businesses traded in Europe saw a negative impact to EU trade as a result of Brexit; however, two thirds (66%) of businesses trading in the EU and the rest of the world experienced gains in non-EU markets. Over one third (35%) of those businesses recouped their EU losses entirely and a further 31% reported regaining some of their EU trade. A similar proportion (32%) reported making no compensating gains outside of the EU, rising to 46% for small businesses specifically. The Attitudes to Trade Survey explores UK businesses’ experiences of trading internationally since the shift from EU membership to the current FTA relationship. Conducted in association with polling group Opinium between 3 and 8 February 2023, the survey is based on responses of 750 senior decision-makers representing a range of large, medium and small-sized businesses trading in both goods and services.
Deloitte UK head of tax and trade policy, Amanda Tickel, said: “Brexit remains a dividing issue for both politicians and businesses. Businesses unsurprisingly reported differing experiences since leaving the EU. For the large majority this resulted in a loss of EU trade, but many are optimistic about a bounce-back into new non-EU markets and the future of buying and selling abroad. Businesses’ global trade footprint has already been, and will continue to be, an important factor in their ability to thrive.”
The results suggest that businesses are generally optimistic about the UK’s trade prospects over the next decade. Over half of businesses (51%) expect the UK’s free trade agreements (FTAs) to have a positive impact on economic growth over the next 10 years, with 21% expecting a negative impact.
There does however appear to be substantive wider dialogue taking place between government and businesses. Six in ten businesses (60%) said they have engaged with government regularly on trade negotiations and a similar number (57%) have engaged with government support programmes or received advice on exporting. However, the survey found that 11% of businesses have never engaged with the government about trade negotiations.
Tickel concluded: “It’s positive that businesses think the UK has the right priorities in trade negotiations and are engaging with government regularly. However, there is the opportunity to do even more when communicating to smaller businesses in order to ensure all UK firms have the chance to benefit from trading overseas in the years ahead. UK businesses should also continue to actively search out opportunities to engage with policymakers and deepen their trade in global markets.”