On 3 December, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne gave his annual Autumn Statement to the House of Commons: an update on the British government’s plans for the economy based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Specifically for exporters and SMEs who want to start trading internationally, the full report contains encouraging information:
1) Britain’s economy is going strong
Overall, the report contained some highly positive figures concerning the economic state and anticipated growth of the UK economy. Unemployment, inflation and the deficit are decreasing, while Britain’s GDP growth is predicted to be 3 per cent for 2014 – higher than for any other G7 country – and 2.2-2.4 per cent per year from 2015-2017.
2) The UK infrastructure will be upgraded and innovation will be fuelled
Osborne emphasised that the government is committed to upgrading the UK’s infrastructure. A well-developed infrastructure is a key requirement for successful domestic as well as international trade, which is why we committed £156 million to expanding our own infrastructure in the UK. £15 billion will be spent on roads throughout the country. To “build a Northern Powerhouse”, £7 billion is allocated to improve the North’s infrastructure and fuel innovation throughout the region, especially in the sciences.
3) £20 million will go to help first-time exporters
This includes additional support from the UKTI International Trade Advisors, with a target to help 6,000 companies become exporters each year. The report also recognises the growing importance of e-commerce, as 5,000 companies each year will receive support to access new markets through the internet. A global events programme will make it easier for UK SMEs to attend international exhibitions and trade shows.
4) UK Export Finance (UKEF) will be modernised
UKEF is moving forward plans to digitise its processes to make these more accessible for SMEs. In early 2015, UKEF will present clear proposals on how to help exporters with their working capital and global supply chains.
5) The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will deliver a £25 million ‘surge for growth’ programme
To support projects and trade agreements across the world, the FCO will invest £22 million in emerging and developing economies on projects which will have the potential to increase UK exports. The additional £3 million will support further reducing trade barriers with North American and European trading partners.
It will also be welcome news for many British SMEs that the tax-free personal allowance will be increased next April to £10,600, business rates are cut or capped with a ‘high street discount’ and Small Business Rate Relief will be doubled for another year. There are also concrete plans to increase the number of apprentices and apprenticeships, with the incentive for employers that no National Insurance contributions will be required for apprentices younger than 25.
If you’re feeling inspired by the 2014 Autumn Statement and are thinking of going global yourself, our Business Export Advisors are here to help: call 0844 248 0675 to jump-start your trade potential today.
To read the 2014 Autumn Statement in full, click here.