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Government export drive falls flat, latest ICAEW survey says

Research by ICAEW has revealed that just 3% of all businesses and only 7% of SMEs have started exporting in the last two years, despite government attempts to encourage more firms to sell internationally and not just to the EU, the UK’s biggest overseas market.


January 2019

The research revealed that companies that are already exporting were planning to continue to export to the same countries with just 22% looking to enter new markets – a fall from 33% in 2014 and 25% in 2016.

Europe remains the top export destination (63%) followed by America (35%) and Asia Pacific (29%) with these figures remaining broadly unchanged in the last two and four years when the survey has been conducted. Those exporters who are planning possible expansion cite Asia Pacific (36%) and Europe (34%) as new markets – again unchanged.

Brexit, regulation and competition are seen by exporters as the top three challenges when selling outside of the UK. Brexit, unsurprisingly, is seen as a risk to their plans (78%) along with growing trade wars (63%).

Nick Levine, ICAEW Head of Enterprise, said: “The government’s export drive, originating back to 2010, has had very little impact on the export activity of UK businesses. Initiatives such as export vouchers would help businesses to kick-start their ambition to grow globally.

“With business confidence falling and investment at a low point due to instability, it is important that exporting is incentivised and to make the UK a more export driven economy following its impending withdrawal from the EU."

Of greater concern to government is that only 1% of businesses are planning to start exporting in the next 12 months regardless of size. This comes despite a multi-million pound advertising campaign.

ICAEW is supporting exporters and export advice to businesses through a new export community.

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