As Prime Minister Boris Johnson assembles his “war Cabinet” to confront Brussels with the threat of a no-deal Brexit, small business exporters have shrugged off the risk of Britain crashing out of the EU.
The majority of UK SMEs that export internationally are more worried about President Trump’s “America First” trade policies and the risk of a global economic slowdown than Britain exiting the EU without a deal.
In addition, the majority of SME businesses say Brexit uncertainty has had “no effect” on their company’s international strategy, according to a survey.
In fact, 47pc of SMEs surveyed by OFX, are looking to start or increase sales to Western Europe in the next year.
Overall, British businesses are still keen to engage in global trade, with almost half (48pc) having increased sales by an average of £45,000 in the last year. Meanwhile, 44pc expect to start or increase international sales within the next 12 months.
However, President Trump’s protectionist trade policies – which include the threat of new tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of European goods — have spooked SMEs. Western Europe has overtaken the US as businesses’ favourite export market.
Sarah Webb, president UK and Europe at OFX, said: “While UK businesses are right to prepare themselves for the risks of a no-deal Brexit, this should not be the only issue that takes their attention right now. The knock-on effects of a global economic slowdown could end up posing a bigger challenge to global trade and the currency markets, so it’s comforting to see small to medium-sized businesses taking action to protect themselves so they can continue to trade with confidence.”
Bullish Northern Ireland
And, despite the dire warnings of a hard border being reimposed between Northern Ireland and Ireland, nearly half of Northern Irish SMEs said the Irish Republic would be their most attractive export market over the coming year.
In the last year, the majority of Northern Irish SMEs (68pc) increased their international sales by an average of £52,440 — making it the fastest-growing region for SMEs exporting internationally.
Jake Trask, FX research director at OFX, said: “As we approach the Brexit deadline, it’s encouraging to see such a show of confidence from small and medium-sized businesses right across the UK. That’s particularly true for Northern Ireland, where businesses have embraced cross-border trade despite ongoing uncertainty around the terms of Brexit.
“Despite escalating rhetoric amongst politicians, businesses are simply knuckling down and taking appropriate measures so they can continue to trade like it’s business as usual.”
Payments platform OFX surveyed 500 senior SME decision makers for its third annual international trade survey.
70% of businesses put investment on hold because of Brexit uncertainty