Growth in trade between UK and EU firms ahead of Brexit
- Credit: PA
The importance of the European Union for UK exporters has been revealed in a new study showing strong growth in trade with the bloc.
A survey of almost 800 company directors found that the EU has seen stronger growth for UK firms selling goods overseas, than Asia or North America over the past two years.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) said its poll found that more than two out of five company bosses found most business growth in the EU, compared with one in five citing North America or Asia.
Two thirds of those polled exported goods, up by 7% on 2013.
Allie Renison of the IoD said: 'The immediate focus should be on reaching a successful deal with the EU that puts maintaining market access at the heart of its priorities. Steadying the ship will enable the UK to navigate a clear path to a truly global future.
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'The importance of the EU as a growth market for IoD members combined with the clear advantage that business leaders see in new trade agreements shows just how eager businesses are to embrace global Britain.
'Our members are already showing the strength of British business on the world stage, but the statistics also show that we need to get real about trade, and fast.
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'Going global is as much about opportunities in Europe as it is further afield, and this should be reflected in how the Government shapes post-Brexit Britain.'
A separate study found that three out of four companies are optimistic about their international business prospects.
A survey of more than 6,000 firms by HSBC showed mixed feeling about the impact of Brexit, with 38% saying it will be negative, while a third predicted it will be positive.
Amanda Murphy, head of commercial banking for HSBC UK, said: 'The combined survey and forecast data we've gathered both point towards a really strong near-term outlook for UK exporters and importers.
'Undeterred by future post-EU uncertainty, businesses clearly aim to capitalise on the cheaper pound and rising demand in key markets to boost their overseas sales.'
A Department for International Trade spokesman said: 'Leaving the European Union will allow the UK to operate as an independent trading nation for the first time in 40 years.
'The government has made clear that it will seek to secure a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU as well as capitalising on the IMF's prediction that 90% of global growth will come from outside the EU over the coming years.
'There is clear evidence that demand for our goods and services is growing across the world.
'Exports increased by 12.1% over the last year, with the trade deficit narrowing by £12.8 billion. We are also developing a new export strategy, which will offer greater support for businesses of all sizes to target new markets and boost exports.'