Despite a gloomy economic outlook for the UK post-Brexit, there are plenty of reasons for optimism, according to Liam Fox, the UK’s secretary of state for international trade. Appointed to the role in the wake of the country’s vote to leave the European Union, he has the mammoth task of securing trade deals with new markets while flying the flag for British exports overseas.
In August last year, he launched an ambitious Export Strategy as part of a plan to dial up the intensity of UK trade. Its central aim is to increase UK total exports as a proportion of GDP to 35%, up from around 30% currently, which would take the UK from the middle of the G7 to near the top.
But getting there won’t be easy. According to the department for international trade, around 400,000 British businesses believe they could export but don’t, with access to finance remaining a major stumbling block.
Brexit-related uncertainty is another barrier, with many businesses reluctant to invest until they know the state of play. A promise to roll over all of the 40 free trade deals the UK has with non-EU countries as part of its membership of the EU “one second after midnight” on March 29 failed to materialise as the Brexit deadline was pushed back to October, leaving exporters unclear on whether to prepare for the loss of tariff-free trade with key partners.
At GTR UK 2019 in London last week, Fox spoke to GTR about how the government aims to enable British firms to realise their full trading potential in what remain trying times.