Can Central South businesses see a bright future for international trade?

February 2021

Author: Arbinder Chatwal, Partner

Rewind four months and 80% of business leaders from the Central South told us that a no-deal Brexit posed a bigger threat than a domestic second wave of COVID-19.

At that time, the Central South region’s companies contrasted with the national trend in terms of concerns about a no-deal Brexit. Regional business leaders across the rest of the UK considered a second wave of COVID-19 as a greater cause for concern for their business than a no-deal Brexit. 

Sadly, the UK continues to battle the second wave with the roll-out of the vaccination programme and lockdown restrictions in place, but a no-deal Brexit was avoided at the eleventh hour.

However, even with a deal in place, the ongoing impact on businesses in the region is clear. Nearly half (43%) of the businesses have cited managing international supply chains in line with the EU/UK Trade Agreement as an immediate priority for their company. Only one in three said their priority was managing the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on their business - suggesting that most companies in the region have built a level of resilience into their business so they’re able to continue trading even amid the strictest lockdown restrictions.

Companies continue to lobby for simplification of paperwork and customs clarity while they rethink their options and work through what the deal means for them. It’s also been well-reported that there has also been significant pressure placed on borders and movement of goods as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. For example, John Glen, chief economist for the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, told BBC News last month that many of the problems before Christmas had been because ports such as Southampton had been log-jammed, partly because dock staff had been off sick. In some ways it is difficult to distinguish what’s having the greatest impact – the start of 2021 has been a perfect supply chain storm.

That said, it’s clear Central South businesses can see a brighter future ahead for international trade as nearly three quarters (73%) of companies told us they are more likely to increase exports now a Brexit deal has been agreed. This is a very promising indicator for the future recovery and prosperity of the region. Central South businesses are also committed to ongoing investment with 60% of business owners stating now is the right time to invest in their company. They’re calling on Government to do the same and back businesses for growth.

In January Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Exports stated that the Government is putting support for SMEs at the heart of export planning in recognition of the innovation and problem-solving skills of mid-sized businesses which “can too often be ignored by government and that quality of public service delivery misses out as a result.”

History tells us that these mid-sized businesses will be key to unlocking the recovery and rebuilding of our regional and UK economy.

To discuss how BDO can help you with your international growth plans please contact [email protected].


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