The latest figures from the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) show that there was a surge in trade documentation ahead of the EU referendum in the UK earlier this year. This increase, however, does not correlate with business leaders’ sentiment on increased export orders.

In its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO), the BCC’s Trade Confidence Index (TCI), measuring the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, stands at 126.5, up 9.4% on Q1 2016, and 4.83% compared to Q2 2015.

The TCI aims to measure the UK’s exporting health by analysing trends in the volume of trade documentation issued to provide insight into the UK’s trade with countries outside of the European Union (EU). The biggest quarter-on-quarter increase came from London with an 18.47% rise, while the biggest drop came from Northern Ireland, which decreased by 3.02%.

However, the rise in documentation has not translated into increased orders according to the BCC, with export sales and orders having remained in a holding pattern for the past few quarters. The survey, which gauges sentiment, found firms are putting off their plans for growth or recruitment until they have more certainty about the evolving economic and business position.

Acting director general of the BCC, Adam Marshall, says: “This rise could be due to short-term factors, including a push to get deals done before the EU referendum or before the summer season, which is traditionally a slower period.”

According to latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which measures actual trade, between Q1 2016 and Q2 2016, the UK’s trade in goods deficit with the EU widened by £4mn to £23.9bn. Meanwhile, the UK’s trade in goods deficit with countries outside the EU narrowed by £3mn to £10.4bn, attributed to an increase in exports.

In volume terms, trade with the EU decreased by 1.6% while trade with non-EU increased by 3.1%, implying a rise in non-EU exports could already be in play.

Many companies are waiting for data from at least one full quarter of activity post-Brexit for more guidance towards decisions.

“We will be keeping a close eye on export trends in the coming quarters, to see if exporters are able to take advantage of the post-referendum fall in sterling over the summer and beyond. The cheap pound could prove to be a double-edged sword for some companies, though, as any who are also importers will have seen their costs rise significantly,” says Marshall.

He called for more funding for trade missions and “fixing the fundamentals of our ageing infrastructure” to aid companies looking for new ways to get goods and services to markets overseas.