With less than a month to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and UK counterpart Lord David Frost are working feverishly to try and thrash out a trade deal. However, with such an agreement hanging in the balance, the study – undertaken by Lloyds Bank and Aston Business School – indicates nearly one in five companies which export goods overseas has diverted business away from the EU since the 2016 referendum result.
The research also indicates that firms are actively looking for new export markets as a result of the UK leaving the EU.
Exports worth an estimated £50billion have been diverted since June 2016, according to the report, based on an analysis of 340,000 quarterly export transactions made by a total of 26,000 UK exporters.
Over the course of the last five years, growth in export values towards EU countries have fallen by an average of 8.7 percent a year, the report added.
Separate polling of 1,200 British businesses indicated nearly one third of exporters had made changes to their supply chain because of Brexit.
Export Minister at the Department for International Trade Graham Stuart said: “90 percent of global growth is expected to be outside Europe over the next few years.
“So it is great to see UK firms aligning their sales with the fastest growing parts of the world.
Gwynne Master, of Lloyds Bank, said: “While the clock is counting down to the end of the UK’s post-EU transition period, British businesses are building toward the future and forging new opportunities around the world.
“These findings are the start of a new chapter in the story of global British business and trade.”
Jun Du, Professor of Economics at Aston Business School, said: “From the referendum through to today we see exporters exploring new trading partners around the world.
“Our concern lies with the vulnerabilities faced by businesses that export less, forging these paths while lacking the infrastructure and scale of multinational firms as this reverse in trade gravity typically means higher costs and greater risk exposure.
“More needs to be done to help British businesses of all sizes navigate the future of international trade.”
With the end of the year looming, Britain has already secured trade deals with major economies including Japan and Canada.
The Japan deal ensures 99 percent of the UK’s exports to Japan will be tariff-free, and could increase trade by £15.2 billion in the long run, compared with 2018.
Speaking after the agreement was formally signed last month, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “How fitting it is to be in the land of the rising sun to welcome in the dawn of a new era of free trade.
“This is the first new free trade deal to be agreed since the UK once again became an independent trading nation.”