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UK Firms Still Have Eyes on Europe, Despite Brexit

  • Clear majority of British businesses are ‘internationally ambitious’ and looking to overseas markets for future growth
  • Lack of expertise and connections cited as main barriers to becoming export-ready
  • Most think Brexit will be a challenge for their company – but more than 40% of SME leaders are bullish about opportunities outside the EU

British small businesses are looking to overseas markets for growth, with Europe still the number one target, despite Brexit – that’s according to new research* from 2018 International Business Festival. When it comes to Brexit, the majority of SME leaders see this as a challenge to their business (55%), however around two-fifths (43%) are still bullish about the potential opportunities presented by leaving the EU.

The survey of 500 decision-makers in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) paints a picture of a vibrant, globally-minded sector but one that needs support in unlocking its potential. For most small businesses, overseas markets currently account for between 20% and 50% of their revenues but most recognise than if they don’t expand internationally they won’t be able to grow, and three quarters of businesses (74%) plan to increase overseas revenue generation in the next three years.

The outlook is positive for small enterprise, as four in five (82%) businesses have a clear strategy for future markets to target. Furthermore, around three quarters of businesses describe themselves as ambitious internationally and well-placed to capitalise on global opportunities (77% and 73% respectively).

On the flipside, they are facing numerous challenges when it comes to putting their plans into action. The biggest barriers to increasing export activity identified by SME leaders are export regulation, getting to grips with the technology involved and finding the right logistics partners. In addition, almost a third of businesses (30%) cite establishing contacts in other markets as an issue.

The International Business Festival (12-28 June) aims to help these businesses make the connections they need to break into new markets. Alongside excellent networking opportunities, delegates will also benefit from listening to world class speakers and attending advice hubs covering everything from finance to investing in new technology.

 Max Steinberg, Chair of the 2018 International Business Festival, says: “It’s clear that entrepreneurs have aspirations of international growth but are hindered by stumbling blocks like regulations and logistics. The Festival focusses on providing a wealth of practical advice for these businesses – from access to finance, how to establish a supply chain and dealing with the culture shock of new markets. We will also be hosting record-breaking numbers of international delegations to help businesses make those all-important personal connections in new markets. With all of this on offer there’s no better place for an ambitious business to be this summer.”

 Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking for HSBC UK and a Festival speaker, says: “This new data echoes what we’re hearing from customers – they are hungry for opportunities abroad, and won’t let wider uncertainties dampen their spirits. Our new trade forecast predicts the value of UK goods and services exports will increase by about 10% in 2018, representing the fastest pace of growth since 2011. Over the longer term, we expect it to double by 2030. But to realise this potential, banks, British businesses, government and other partners need to work together to ensure the UK is best positioned to unlock opportunities in international markets.

 “Whatever the future holds, we will continue helping British businesses to navigate the terrain and seek new opportunities for growth.”