British businesses remain optimistic on international trade – outside the EU

UK businesses are optimistic about international trade and future growth overseas but primarily outside the EU, a new survey has found.

The research by HSBC found that 86% of UK businesses said they are positive about the outlook, compared with just 74% a year ago.

However, business positivity towards future trading with the EU fell sharply, with just 15% hopeful on a strong relationship with France, down from 29% a year ago.

On Germany, one of the UK’s biggest EU trading partners, optimism fell from 30% last year to just 16% today, the survey found.

By comparison 24% of businesses ranked the US in their top three current trade partners and 11% identified Canada.

North American markets look set to remain attractive, with 22% of businesses citing the US among their top three partners for future trading expansion in the next three to five years, an increase from 16% last year.

Canada, at 12%, moves into third place between France with 13% and Germany with 11%, the survey of 9,100 companies in 35 markets including 1,000 in the UK found.

  • US: 22%
  • France: 13%
  • Canada: 12%
  • Germany: 11%
  • Spain: 7%

Optimism was not shared across the whole UK, however, with London-based businesses the most confident, with those in the Midlands the least.

Asked whether they expect to see growth of 15% or more in the next three to five years, 40% of London firms agreed, whilst just 26% of Midlands businesses had the same confidence.

Businesses in the North and Scotland were most pessimistic for the next 12 months, with just 24% saying they expect growth of 15%.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 54.7% of exports in goods and services from the UK go to non-EU countries, whilst 52.6% of imports come from the EU.

  • South: 33%
  • London: 36%
  • Midlands: 29%
  • North and Scotland: 24%

The US, which is seen as a major future market for the UK after Brexit, accounts for 19% of all UK exports and 11% of imports come from Stateside.

Ian Tandy, head of global trade and receivables finance for HSBC UK, said: “Although the future of Brexit remains unclear, we are seeing that businesses are thinking beyond traditional markets in the EU.

“We also see that firms are responding to the challenging economic environment, projecting growth on the back of strategies they have put in place to navigate the ongoing uncertainty.

“The positive trade outlook tells us that Brand Britain remains strong and we continue to see demand for high quality British goods and services around the world.”

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