British exporters need more support from the government in the run-up to and after Brexit, an alliance of more than 50 trade associations will argue at a briefing in the House of Commons later this month.
Sponsors’ Alliance, whose members include the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) and British Footwear Association (BFA), will present MPs with examples of British export success stories on 25 April, to demonstrate the importance of supporting SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to expand internationally.
It will also use the opportunity to raise some of its concerns about the lack of support for exporters.
Sponsors’ Alliance pointed out that the government only announced how much funding would be available to support exporters through its Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) for the first half of the current financial year – from 1 April to 30 September – at the end of February, which is later than normal.
A review of the programme is expected to take place in May.
“Exporters need certainty in terms of support from government, as their own budgets and business plans have to be set well in advance of any investment and commitment to the long-term development of a success export strategy,” said Tim Collins, chairman of Sponsors’ Alliance.
“The TAP budget has dropped over the past 15 years from £21.9m in 2002 down to £9.1m in the 2016/17 financial year. That’s a mere fraction of the support given to exporters in other countries such as Germany, Italy and even Turkey.
“Businesses and the trade associations have no current idea what the second half of the financial year will hold in terms of government TAP support.”
Paul Alger, director of international business development at UKFT, agreed with Collins that the amount given to support British exports pales in comparison with other European countries: “The Italians spend more on promoting Italian menswear in New York than we do across the whole fashion sector.
“We understand resources are not limitless, but we also know that if you want to incentivise a small company to go to new markets, a £1,200 grant can make a huge difference.”
He pointed out that several successful British fashion companies have used TAP funding to develop in new markets, including Orla Kiely, menswear brand Simon Carter and bridalwear designer Jenny Packham.
“A bit of seed funding can help a brand to make a major contribution to the UK economy in 10 years’ time. If you doubled the amount of money available to the scheme, you could dramatically increase the number of companies looking at new markets and ratchet up your exports.”
He described the briefing as a “call to arms”: “Industry wants to work with the government, but they need to talk to us properly and treat us as equal partners.”
Sponsors’ Alliance will launch its report, Manifesto for Export Support: Driving UK Exports, at the House of Commons briefing on 25 April.