September 26, 2023

The proportion of microbusinesses making exports overseas jumped last year to 46 per cent compared with 39 per cent in 2021.

A microbusiness is defined as having up to nine employees.

Four out of ten SMEs (up to 250 employees) exported last year, while just over half (54 per cent) of large businesses with 250+ employees exported.

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Overall, the percentage of all businesses that have never exported having has fallen from 71 per cent in 2015 to 59 per cent last year.

The annual poll by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) focusing on businesses with revenues of more than £500,000 showed that the number of active exporters in 2022 held steady, and that the proportion had changed in the past seven years only from 33 per cent to 34 per cent.

The survey of 3,000 businesses acknowledges that businesses faced significant challenges in 2022, including ongoing fallout from Covid-19 plus the Russian invasion of Ukraine and inflation.

However, Brexit remained the biggest challenge to business exports, with the percentage of all businesses saying that they had stopped exporting in the previous 12 months doubling to about 14 per cent. Asked why, 53 per cent said it was because of Brexit, followed by the impact of Covid and falling demand.

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There was also increasing scepticism about the value of free trade agreements, such as plans to join the CPTPP trade bloc, with almost three in five businesses saying they expected FTAs to have absolutely no effect on their business.

Tina McKenzie, policy chairwoman of the Federation of Small Businesses, told The Times the findings painted a mixed picture of exporting. “As far as small businesses are concerned, excessive customs paperwork, cost burdens and supply chain and logistical issues can put overseas markets out of reach,” she said.

In total, UK businesses made £815bn worth of exports in 2022.

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