Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015: Key takeaways for British SMEs and exporters

On 25 November, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne presented a joint 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement to Parliament. The document gave an overview of the state of the British economy and emphasised how British businesses will be supported both in the UK and in trading abroad. Here are the most important points for British businesses and international traders.


The British economy continues to be poised for growth

George Osborne confirmed that the British economy is doing exceptionally well: “Since 2010, no economy in the G7 has grown faster than Britain.”

Productivity is increasing and the UK economy is set to grow 2.4 per cent this year. Future growth is actually set to be higher than had been forecast in this year’s July Budget forecast, with 2.4 per cent projected for 2016 and 2.5 per cent in 2017.

Osborne’s previously stated ambition to build a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is also progressing: more people are working in the North than ever before, and the Midlands are home to the strongest job growth.

Improvements to Britain’s infrastructure are underway

Osborne emphasised that the government is focusing on long-term infrastructure investments. This includes the HS2 train line project to link the North of England to the South of the country, the electrification of railway lines as well as designated funds to repair pot holes. Britain recently “topped the league table of the best places in the world to invest in infrastructure,” so the government is optimistic about further development.

Further measures will be implemented to support businesses in the UK

The Spending Review and Autumn Statement emphasises that the UK’s SMEs now employ 15.6 million people. To allow SMEs to hire even more employees and apprentices, the employment allowance will increase to £3,000 in April 2016, and the government is committed to working closely with businesses to create 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020.

Uniform business rates will be abolished, which means that councils and local authorities will have the power to reduce rates locally to make their area more attractive to businesses.

Following similar measures taken by the French government, the business budget has been cut – and £165 million of loans will be offered to British businesses in the place of current grants.

The British government also plans for a “digital revolution” in Whitehall to make things easier for UK businesses. By 2020, every individual and small business will be able to manage their taxes online through their own digital tax account.

The small business rate relief scheme will be extended for another year, set to help 600,000 of the UK’s smallest businesses.

Driving international trade and investment is a government priority

Osborne emphasised that the expectations for world growth and trade have been revised downwards again, but that Britain is doing comparatively well: “Exports have grown faster than imports.” Goods exports to the EU have risen by 9.5 per cent since 2010, and Britain is successfully expanding into other markets: UK goods exports to countries beyond the EU have increased by 30.2 per cent since Q1 2010. The Spending Review and Autumn Statement also alludes to UKTI’s Exporting is Great campaign, which it hopes will allow the agency to become a leader in “world-class export and investment promotion.”

The British government is also implementing measures to allow more overseas businesspeople to come to the UK, including a two year visa programme for Chinese visitors. The £30 billion education exports goal is supported by strong growth in non-EU students choosing British education.

Beyond promoting the export of physical products, Britain continues to be a significant services exporter. In terms of travel and tourism, 34 million overseas visitors contributed £28 billion to the UK economy in 2014. The government will also provide the BBC World Service with additional funding so that “British values of freedom and free expression are heard around the world.”

Read the 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement in full here.

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