The number of UK businesses that export has declined in the year since the United Kingdom officially separated from the European Union, according to new data from Coriolis Technologies and the Institute of Export and International Trade (IoE&IT), which find that global supply chain disruption and the impact of the pandemic are also pressuring exporters.

The March Exporter Monitor, released by the two organisations this week, shows that the number of large international exporters in the UK has declined by almost 9% in the period between February 2021 and February 2022, versus a drop of just 3% for medium-sized firms. This, says Paul O’Donnell, public affairs director at the IoE&IT, is likely due in part to reshoring in the wake of Brexit.

“Large companies are probably readjusting their supply chains to take into account the fact that there is an extra level of complexity crossing that border, and that is part of why we are seeing this decline in cross-border economic transactions,” he tells GTR.

This comes amid wider export declines as a result of a confluence of factors affecting trade performance, from Covid-19 to the ongoing disruptions across global supply chains.

“This month’s export monitor serves as a timely reminder that businesses of all sizes in the UK need help and support to keep goods flowing in and out of the country. The past 12 months have been a learning curve for importers and exporters alike, adapting to the changes in the UK’s trading relationship with Europe. It is clear that there are macro issues which have disrupted the UK economy and businesses’ ability to reshape their supply chains and market development,” says Marco Forgione, IoE&IT director general.

Overall, the UK saw a 9.3% decrease in the total revenue generated by exporting businesses over the period, with a drop from £5.2bn to £4.7bn, according to the Coriolis data, and again it is larger firms who are being hardest hit. In January this year, large exporters’ revenues fell by around 12.4% year-over-year, compared to a 0.3% drop for medium-sized businesses.

“Our data highlights how difficult UK exporters have found the last 12 months following the global pandemic and Brexit,” says Rebecca Harding, chief executive at Coriolis Technologies. “For the first time, we are seeing the largest businesses struggle more than medium or micro businesses, and this is a timely reminder of how sensitive all UK exports are to the current global climate.”

On a positive note, she adds that “there are signs of resilience that would typically indicate potential improvement in exporter revenues in the coming months”, and projects “a mild pick up” in the numbers of exporters and revenues in March.

However, the current backdrop of heightened political risk as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine looks set to pour water on this upbeat outlook.

“Optimism needs to be tempered with reality,” says Harding.