When it comes to finding international markets for your products, Europe is a clear starting point for British businesses: at its narrowest point, the Channel only separates the UK from France by just over 33 km, and London is within a two hour flight radius of European capitals such as Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Den Haag, Brussels, Luxembourg and Bern.
Beyond geographical proximity, the UK also shares a strong cultural affinity with fellow European countries: business environments are similar (and not just due to EU regulations which make it very easy to trade with member states), and especially many Western European countries share cultural values and attitudes to business etiquette with the UK.
English is spoken by about a third of all EU citizens beyond the UK , which gives British companies a further advantage when it comes to doing business across the region.
While Western Europe’s countries are a natural starting point for British businesses looking to expand, their similarity to the UK does bring with the a similar disadvantage: the markets are sophisticated and often saturated. So don’t discount the markets of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE): UKTI has identified Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia as ‘High Growth Europe’. UK exports to the CEE region already account for £16 billion with demand continuing to rise.
So where does trading with Europe end? Geographically, Europe’s borders are not clearly defined. It’s up to debate whether Commonwealth of Independent States members such as Armenia and Azerbaijan (and former CIS member Georgia) can be considered part of Europe, and some Mediterranean countries, such as Lebanon, are sometimes grouped as belonging to Europe and othertimes seen as part of the Middle East.
What is clear is that if you’re thinking of taking your business to new destinations, there’s no easier place to start than Europe. Don’t forget to check out our trading with Europe page and trading with the EU guide pages for detailed information – and if you have any questions about trading with European countries, our DHL team is here to help.