International trade secretary Liam Fox launched a new strategy that aims to boost the UK’s export opportunities after it leaves the European Union in a speech delivered today (21 August).
Fox set out how the government plans to support businesses to capitalise on new global export opportunities.
“Today’s launch of the export strategy is the next step in our journey towards making the UK a 21st century exporting superpower,” said Fox.
“By utilising the UK’s overseas network, online tools and business mentoring, the export strategy will help UK enterprises achieve the Government’s target of increasing UK exports as a proportion of GDP to 35%. The UK is punching above its weight, but below its potential.”
According to Fox, there are currently around 400,000 UK businesses that could export but do not. The strategy wants to target them with better loans, guarantees and support. The government is also asking businesses to state what the biggest barriers to trade they face are.
An ‘important step’ for food
UK trade body the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the strategy as an important step in helping UK food businesses understand export opportunities.
“Food and drink is a UK exports success story, with global sales reaching a record level of £10.6bn for the first half of 2018. Yet the majority of UK food and drink businesses still do not export and, as a country, we export less food and drink than some of our key competitors,” FDF chief executive Ian Wright noted.
“Proposals to boost food and drink exports form a key part of the Industrial Strategy Sector Deal for food and drink manufacturing which we are currently negotiating with government. We are working closely with DIT, Defra and BEIS on the deal and to promote food and drink exports more generally.”
Brexit countdown continues
Fox’s speech comes at a time when businesses are increasingly concerned at the seeming lack of progress being made in Brexit negotiations between London and Brussels.
While Wright welcomed increased support for food exporters, he also stressed that the food industry is in desperate need of clarity over Brexit negotiations and the future relationship with the European Union. The UK is due to leave the bloc in March next year and the EU is the UK’s largest export market.
“It is our biggest export market and any ‘no deal’ exit would be a disaster for food and drink exporting opportunities,” he stressed.
Likewise, the Federation of Small Businesses said the export strategy was “strong on aspiration” but also stressed the urgent need for progress in negotiations.
Mike Cherry, the FSB chairman, said: “The clock is ticking. If the government doesn’t act quickly and introduce financial incentives there is a risk the current uncertainty will have a serious and detrimental impact.”