A quarter of firms exporting less to EU with complex rules the biggest trade barrier, new poll finds

Wed 23 Nov 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
IOE News

British Exporting poll results

A poll of UK businesses that are looking to increase their exports has found that the complexity of rules is the most significant barrier to trade.

The majority of firms polled during a webinar hosted by the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) also said they were trading with the EU at about the same level as they were pre-Brexit.

Rules and burden

There were over 500 businesses attending the first in a series of free introductory webinars from the IOE&IT on Monday (21 November).

When asked what the most significant barrier to trade was, over half (57%) said ‘understanding complex rules’, followed by 16% who said ‘administrative burden’. Only 7% said tariffs were a significant barrier.

Accelerator Programme Poll 1

“This is understandable as when you look into it more deeply, there’s hundreds of bits of legislation that can affect traders,” said Matt Vick, a customs and trade specialist at the IOE&IT, on the webinar.

“The government has a really useful website for traders to find guidance, but navigating this can be challenging,” he added.

“Based on the typical questions we get asked in our training sessions, this isn’t surprising,” said Susan Roe, who is also a customs and trade specialist at the IOE&IT.

Brexit impact

A quarter of firms (24%) said they were trading less with the EU than before Brexit, with only 15% saying they were trading more. The majority of firms (54%) said their trade was relatively unaffected.

“This figure would have been really different as recently as six months ago,” said Roe, who said that traders had faced significant challenges since Brexit. She said she was “pleasantly surprised” that more firms hadn’t seen a more negative impact.

Accelerator Programme Poll 2

Vick pointed out that the EU’s proximity to the UK shouldn’t be overlooked, as well as the long-lasting relationships that UK businesses would have had with EU partners from before Brexit.

However, when asked about what had impacted their trade most, 54% of the attendees said Brexit followed by 23% for the pandemic and 12% for the war in Ukraine.

Accelerator Programme Poll 3

Trade deals uncertainty

Post-Brexit trade deals have been highlighted as one of the potential opportunities for UK trade following Brexit, but a significant number of firms are not sure if they are currently benefiting.

When asked if they were benefiting from the UK’s deal with the EU, 37% said they were but 48% said they were not sure.

When asked about deals with non-EU markets, over a half (53%) said they weren’t sure if they were benefiting, while just over a quarter (26%) said they were and roughly a fifth (21%) said they were not.

Accelerator Programme Poll 4

EU number one

The EU was the most popular market for exporters on the line, with 89% saying they were exporting to the bloc, followed by Asia and Australasia (54%) and the Americas (53%).

Most firms on the webinar were already exporters, though 40% said they would like to do more. A tenth of the audience used to export but hadn’t done so for a while, while a third were new to export.

Accelerator Programme Poll 5