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UK exporters have been given more than £12bn in state support to keep trading through Brexit and the pandemic. The finance, delivered through government agency UK Export Finance (UKEF), was the highest level of support in 30 years and almost treble the amount of 2019.

The figures were revealed today as Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart MP, this afternoon told the International Trade Select Committee that a “change to the culture in this country” was needed to favour exporters.

In highlighting UKEF’s role in facilitating UK exports, Stuart observed that “there could be as many companies that could export that don’t as those that can and do”.

The minister told the committee: “All the data and our research show that companies that export, compared to their peers that don’t, in general are more resilient, productive, innovative, and they tend to pay higher wages. These are tendencies that come from exporting…[and are] all the things you’d like to have across the UK economy.”

SME exports

According to the government, finance and guarantees were given to 549 companies, more than double the number from two years ago, supporting up to 107,000 UK jobs. SMEs made up 79% of the companies supported as the department backed hundreds of small export contracts.

Larger firms, such as Rolls-Royce, Ford, easyJet and British Airways, benefitted from £7bn in pandemic disruption support made up of a mixture of trade guarantees and insurance to encourage private sector lending.

New green team

The minister also announced that UKEF has created a new Renewables, Energy and Carbon Management underwriting team.

In December, UKEF committed to ending support for new fossil fuel projects overseas in line with the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

A team of 20 will deal with sectors like wind power, solar, green hydrogen, grid resilience and decommissioning, developing relationships to maximise UK companies’ participation in international projects.

Stuart said: “We are opening up the world’s fastest growing markets through the trade deals we are negotiating so that the UK can recover as quickly as possible from the pandemic.”

IOE&IT chief welcomes green move

Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, welcomed the UKEF’s ‘green’ expansion.

“The emergence of new technologies to tackle decarbonisation is one of the biggest factors in the global economy right now,” Forgione said. “The scale of many of the challenges means that only international solutions can be viable and it is essential that British companies are able to play their part.

“That means ensuring that the right financing is in place, affordably and quickly for projects that have the potential, not only to green the economy but to contribute to recovery and sustainable growth.”