As it has been for many people and organisations involved in international trade, 2023 has been a busy year for the Daily Update.
As well as publishing just shy of 1,000 news stories, the Update also got something of a facelift with a major redesign in the summer bringing the look, feel and tone of the email up-to-date, introducing more slots for news and features and helping readers to get as many chances as possible to engage with all the content the team delivers.
So what stories did they engage with in particular through 2023? Here’s our annual lookback at the stories that most grabbed your attention through the year. With a hat-tip to Spotify, think of it as a sort of Daily Update ‘wrapped’ for the year.
As the new year started, our most-read article related to a familiar story on prices, with reports that food inflation had hit a record high in the run-up to Christmas. No wonder the relatively new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, made halving inflation one of his top five priorities.
Other stories that caught your attention in January were an update on the UK freeports project and technical updates on what would become another rolling story for 2023: the switchover from the existing system (CHIEF) to the new Customs Declarations Service (CDS) for exports. At this point in the year, it was still pencilled in for a November deadline.
We also ran a series of features looking ahead to the rest of 2023, relying where possible on data rather than opinion. Were they more accurate that way? Let’s just say some were right while others were less right.
Early on in February we got a glimpse of what would become one of the major stories of the first quarter, as rumours started to circulate that the UK and EU were getting closer to reaching a compromise on replacing or fixing the troubled Northern Ireland Protocol to assist traders shipping goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a way that could potentially also allow for the power-sharing agreement and Stormont assembly to get working again.
In the meantime, after little over 100 days in office, Sunak oversaw his first reshuffle. A relatively minor reshuffle did come with major changes to government departments. Out went the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for International Trade, to be replaced with a new Department for Business and Trade (DBT). Secretary of state for international trade, Kemi Badenoch, took the reins at the merged department. While it was good to see trade and business together, there were fears the trade aspects may get lost in a bigger department. To date, it hasn’t felt that way.
Towards the end of the month, we reflected on the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine, looking at how it had affected global trade.
One other story that caught your attention was a look at export controls and the more than £3m of fines for those found in breach of them by HMRC.
The big announcement on Northern Ireland came on the last day of the month, with Rishi Sunak inviting European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to meet the King and announce the new Windsor Framework (a definite rare win week in 2023 for “dear Rishi”).
For at least a week or two, all customs folk could talk about was green lanes and red lanes and something called the Stormont Brake. But while businesses greeted the announcement with a cautious optimism, it wasn’t enough to convince Unionists to end their Stormont break.
Having called an emergency budget in October 2022 to try and restore calm after the disastrous mini budget a month earlier, chancellor Jeremy Hunt set a more measured tone in mid-March, with his first Spring budget. This one included a juicy set of measures on modernising customs authorisations and, naturally, Daily Update readers lapped up our detailed coverage.
Coverage of events right across the UK was an important element of Daily Update content for 2023 and March was a big month for Wales, with the announcement of two new freeports.
There weren’t many weeks, especially at the start of the year, where we didn’t have to cover some form of industrial action or other, with March a notable month for strikes at several ports causing delays and backlogs. As always, we did our best to keep readers up to speed in advance.
For the second time in a row, the last day of the month saw a major trade announcement, as the UK’s “Pacific tilt” continued with it signing a deal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a bloc consisting of 11 nations, home to 500 million people and 15% of global trade.
Throughout April there remained a strong focus on Northern Ireland, with the Windsor Framework still on the news agenda, as well as the great and the good gathering in Belfast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
But April also saw a major forward-looking announcement, with the launch of a consultation for the much-delayed UK Border Target Operating Model (BTOM). Run by the Cabinet Office, the consultation was a six-week exercise in sharing information with customs experts, traders and intermediaries, with the government at this stage aiming to get the first checks under the new model up and running by late autumn.
IOE&IT played a full part in the consultation process, running a survey for members and hosting a series of public webinars, one with a senior Cabinet Office official, to help spread the word and get as much industry engagement as possible.
April also saw the launch of our Export Essentials series, in which we interviewed IOE&IT customs and trade expert, Matt Vick, on everything from an introduction to export to the basics of Incoterms.
Also in April, we discovered the firms that had made it onto the inaugural list of King’s Award winners, with many also taking up the opportunity of joining the Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT).
In early May, with the BTOM consultation still in full swing, the EU announced its own major package of customs reforms that will have major ramifications for those trading into or from the EU.
A common theme in trade news this year (as every year since 2016) has been the impact of Brexit on trade. In May, it was the turn of the car industry, in the form of Stellantis – owner of Fiat, Vauxhall and Peugeot – to call for a renegotiation of the UK-EU trade deal. Of particular concern was the timetable for changes to the rules of origin for electric vehicles. It was a story that continued to rumble through the industry over the year.
Meanwhile, research by LSE found that Brexit has added £7bn to the cost of British food.
And the climate crisis isn’t helping on food costs, as our ever-popular Commodity in Focus series found when we investigated a price spike in olive oil caused by drought.
By the end of the month, again on the last day of the month, the focus for major trade news in the UK had shifted further afield, as the first fully fresh new post-Brexit trade deals came into force. The start of the free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand were described by Kemi Badenoch as a “historic moment” for the UK, and an “important milestone” by IOE&IT’s lead on trade agreements, Henriette Gjaerde.
June was Pride month in the UK and the Daily Update ran a series of pieces throughout the month looking at the intersection of the LGBTQ+ and trade communities, speaking to employees of IOE&IT (very much an inclusive employer) and to other trade professionals.
June also saw the launch of the IOE&IT-convened E-Commerce Trade Commission, with an all-star line-up of speakers joining Marco Forgione, director general of IOE&IT and chair of the new commission, for a panel discussion. Speakers at the event included Badenoch and export minister Lord Offord.
Late June saw IOE&IT take part in the WTO’s world MSME day, launching a £5m fund to help small firms start exporting and working with the WTO’s MSME Group to develop the Trade Game, a gamified version of an international trade deal.
In early July, the IOE&IT team decamped for a couple of days to Liverpool to host Membercon23, with this year’s event bigger and better than ever. The Daily Update was there, of course, bringing readers all the latest from the event and capturing the thoughts of the members who took part.
Another big story for the Daily Update throughout 2023 was the progress of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill (soon to be Act; ETDA), which in July digital economy minister Paul Scully claimed would save UK businesses £1.1bn.
There was “an exciting moment for UK business and trade” in mid-July, as the UK formally signed the deal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an event marked with a special, themed issue of the Daily Update.
As summer wound its weary way through August, there was no let up for the Daily Update. We launched our new summer reads series; if you haven’t read them yet, maybe they could make your end-of-year list. We also reported on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on global trade. August also saw the announcement of the high-profile, independent judging panel for the inaugural set of International Trade Awards that would be handed out in November.
Also in August came the somewhat inevitable news that the plans for the implementation of the new BTOM would be delayed, with the first checks now not starting until January 2024.
We launched The Week in Trade, a regular Friday feature looking back at the week just gone that has continued to thrive as the year has progressed. Look out later this week for a Year in Trade special.
It all changed for the back-to-school moment in September, as the Daily Update got a major overhaul, allowing us to add some editorial comment at the start and to include more stories and links. With a new and expanded team on board to help, things got off to a busy start with a Labour reshuffle and the launch of a second regular series looking at the week ahead in trade. Our profile of the new shadow business and trade secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, was a popular read.
September also saw IOE&IT work with Flint Global to launch a major policy report on UK services exports, looking at ways to maximise the services export potential of all the nations and regions of the UK. We launched it with a major parliamentary reception, attended by plenty of key movers and shakers in the trade world. As always, the Daily Update was there to report.
Also in September, we were able to report on the UK re-joining the EU’s Horizon science research programme. And in advance of the ETDA coming into force on the 20th of the month, we ran a series of deep dives looking at what it all might mean for the future of trade.
October is political party conference season and the IOE&IT External Affairs team were on the road, taking our message on the importance of support for exporting businesses to all the major parties. While not there in person, the Daily Update was reporting on the major political headlines and the trade-related events and stories, not least IOE&IT-sponsored panels at both the Conservative conference and the Labour event.
October is also graduation month for IOE&IT students and this year’s event – reported in the Daily Update – was the largest one yet.
There was more good news for senior IOE&IT experts toward the end of October, as Kevin Shakespeare gave evidence to a parliamentary committee on the freeports project and Anna Doherty was named chair of the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC).
In November, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak gathered a bunch of tech heads at Bletchley Park to talk all things AI and launch the Bletchley Declaration on AI Safety.
A week later we reported on the trade ramifications of the first King’s Speech for 70 years.
November also saw the launch of IOE&IT’s inaugural Import Export Show, a major new addition to the global trade community’s calendar, with an impressive line-up of speakers and panel discussions as well as the first ever International Trade Awards. The Daily Update team was there to capture it all, including a keynote address from Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe.
Later in the month, Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn Statement.
As the year headed to a close, trade news didn’t slow down. But we did take some time to prepare for the festive season with the launch of a commodity code Advent calendar. The first week of the month saw what some dubbed “Customs Day”, with a raft of announcements on simplifying and modernising customs procedures.The government also launched a new body to target those breaching trade sanctions, while a report from Heathrow Airporton exports caught our readers’ attentions. With the year winding down, the Daily Update turned to a series of features looking back on the year just gone, which just about brings us up to date.