Over the last year the importance for the UK to increase its exports around the world as a result of Brexit has emerged as a key need for tomorrow’s ‘Global Britain’. Even before Brexit there was plenty of discussion in business and political circles about the need for Britain to narrow its trade deficit and increase international productivity in order to continue growing as an economy. While government-led efforts like the Exporting is GREAT campaign and the wealth of information provided by big business and support organisations including ourselves has undoubtedly helped lay the seeds, there is no doubt that the road ahead for the UK is appearing increasingly complex and long as it starts to take exporting seriously.
The reality remains that leaving the EU will make selling goods and services overseas a harder and more time-consuming task with The Institute of Export and International Trade reporting that the number of shipments into and out of the UK to be classed as exports/imports is to rise from 90 million to 300 million per annum. Simply put, while at the moment you can send products to France or Germany without much hassle, once the UK has left the EU there will potentially be a new set of paperwork and obligations to meet and complete in order to continue to sell into these EU markets – and that’s before talking about exporting outside of Europe.
If companies are not prepared for the requirements that altered conditions of exporting into Europe and increasing exports outside of Europe will incur, they will ultimately have to pay a cost. The IOE&IT have estimated that given HMRC typically pulls out 4% of transactions for random inspection from shipments of agricultural, textiles, chemical and other goods which are liable to need control certificates, the potential cost to business of additional import/export declarations from just that 4%, including costs in demurrage and other delays, could run up to £3.4 billion.
In effect, businesses looking to continue to export will need to clue up on how they prepare for shipping their goods overseas, including a much greater awareness of new controls and licenses their products may be affected by and new costs involved in sending goods overseas.
Businesses need to treat exporting as a skill
But with global markets beyond and within the EU still offering UK businesses great opportunities for growth – especially as British goods remain cheaper to import than a year ago due to the weakened pound – the need to tackle these new challenges head on is paramount for businesses of all sizes. While larger companies will more easily be able to bring in export expertise, for many small and medium size enterprises the task of upskilling their internal exporting capabilities will be harder and more costly.
In recent times, the UK has not invested as much as other countries in the education and recruitment of people who deeply understand the export process in a professional way, largely because trade within the EU has been relatively easy. But UK businesses will increasingly begin to need such skills to scale and grow internationally as the post-Brexit years start to hit and the need to take exporting seriously grows.
While the last 20 years have seen the advents of digital marketing managers and social media specialists as new and common roles in businesses of all sizes, tomorrow’s Britain will need to see titles like ‘Head of Export’, ‘International Compliance Manager’, and ‘International Logistics Manager’ become more frequent if companies are to embrace and get behind the opportunities that a more Global Britain could bring.
The next instalment of this feature details how the Institute of Export and International Trade satisfies the demand for exporting education and professionalism.