‘Brand Britain’ boosted by Brexit say South West businesses

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Six months on from Brexit, new research from business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP finds that most (59%) mid-sized businesses in the South West believe Brexit has strengthened ‘Brand Britain’.

In a survey of mid-sized businesses, Grant Thornton found that ‘Brand Britain’ is considered to be an advantage to South West based firms looking to venture into new international markets, with 67% of the region’s businesses believing it is helpful when trading internationally.

While Brexit posed a level of uncertainty to many businesses at the start of the year, nearly two thirds (59%) of those surveyed believed that they were well prepared for the impacts felt from Brexit so far.

But the transition has not come without its challenges. The research identifies the four biggest impacts felt from Brexit in the region’s mid-market over the past six months as:

    • Setting up new overseas operations (44%)
    • Trade compliance issues (44%)
    • Immigration and people mobility challenges (37%)
    • Supply chain disruption (28%)

Jonathan Riley, practice leader for Grant Thornton in the South West, said: “The last year has presented huge uncertainty for businesses of all sizes, with Brexit and the pandemic creating an ever-changing operating environment which has been extremely difficult to navigate. But mid-sized businesses in the South West have proven their resilience and it is clear from our research that, despite the challenges posed, the majority are currently feeling more positive about the impacts of Brexit than first feared.

“There are still further changes and milestones to come from Brexit. Careful management will continue to be needed by businesses throughout the coming months to avoid further disruption to their operations; particularly once the level of international travel increases and the current grace periods come to an end.”

While the research finds that Brexit has strengthened ‘Brand Britain’ for the South West’s mid-market, the uncertainty it posed has changed the market’s approach to international growth. More than half (56%) of respondents said that Brexit has prompted their business to focus more on the domestic rather than international markets.

Despite the changing trade landscape brought about by Brexit, international growth is still on the cards for many. This could be a sign of confidence now that the dust has settled from the immediate Brexit transition and as the economy recovers from the effects of Covid-19. The intention for South West businesses to grow overseas is illustrated by the fact that 39% are expecting to export more to the Eurozone in the next year compared to before the pandemic and 35% will invest more in their international growth plans over the next six months.

Jonathan Riley added: “While Brexit may have focused more attention on the domestic market temporarily, it could open up doors to new international opportunities. With discussions ongoing around new trade deals with countries across the globe, and the recent deal confirmed with Australia, the ease to operate and grow internationally could encourage many businesses to explore new markets. For example, nearly two thirds of the South West businesses we surveyed felt that a free trade agreement with India would be more likely to encourage them to explore opportunities in this market.

“With new trade agreements underway and mid-market businesses planning to invest more in their international growth plans, we are entering an exciting chapter of a new global Britain with businesses able to explore opportunities internationally that they may not have been able to consider before.”

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