Director General responds to 2017 Autumn Budget

Wed 22 Nov 2017
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
IOE News

Following one of the most anticipated autumn budgets in living memory, Director General of the Institute of Export & International Trade Lesley Batchelor has told the BBC’s Daily Politics and Business News Special shows that the £3bn set aside for Brexit is a start but that plenty needs to be done to ensure it is spent wisely.

Watch Lesley's interview on BBC iPlayer

Speaking on the Daily Politics, at the offices of Peterborough manufacturers Lawrence David Ltd, Lesley was asked if the £3bn announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond to account for the potential costs of the UK’s leaving the European Union was sufficient. Lesley said she hoped so but listed several key aspects of the UK’s future trading situation that this will need to cover, including re-staffing the border controls, vehicle recognition, and increasing the number of lorry parks for border inspections.

When asked by BBC journalist Jo Coburn if she was optimistic about the UK’s future ability to do trade in international markets Lesley voiced concern around whether businesses are doing enough preparation to find out what international trade will require of them after Brexit. She noted that the Institute’s broad range of training courses and qualifications are ideal for helping British exporters gain the skills needed for post-Brexit, but there hasn’t been as much take-up of these as she had expected.

And when asked if the devaluation of the pound had helped or not in terms of driving up UK exports, Lesley noted that the weakened pound has undoubtedly made UK exports more price competitive, but warned that sustainable export growth will only come from maintaining high quality and standards in the UK’s goods and services. Furthermore, those that import raw materials or components parts from abroad for the manufacturer of their products have actually been hit badly by the pound’s slump.

Lesley was also keen to reiterate the point that the conditions of trade are liable to change and it is imperative for the UK economy that businesses take the initiative to prepare for the different potential outcomes of Brexit. As has been apparent at each of our recent trade summits tackling trade post-Brexit, businesses will need to be able to gain new skills and adjust quickly to changes in the international trade arena over the coming years.

Though Lesley said that a trade deal could be done with the EU, she said it is only likely to be done at the last minute, meaning businesses will need to continue planning for different eventualities till the last.