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Brexit has now happened and the only way is forwards. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what exporters could do and what help might be available to do it.

Focus on the UK

If exports are a business’ jam rather than its bread and butter, then the best option might be to focus purely on the UK market. The brutal fact is that many businesses have simply not made it through lockdown. That is harsh for everyone involved with them. It does, however, also reduce the competition for the businesses which have survived.

Pulling back from exports could also give firms a bit of breathing space to assess their structure and processes. In particular, companies might want to have a good, hard look at everything relating to their cash-flow.

Open banking and the growth of fintechs are creating some really exciting opportunities for companies to do more for less. You do, however, need to know about them to make use of them.

Get to grips with the EU market

The EU is still there (as is NI) and exports are still go. Border delays should begin to ease, at least to some extent, as COVID19 is eliminated. Quite bluntly, this should get rid of one cause of problems and hence leave everyone more time, energy and resources to focus on Brexit.

SMEs can qualify for grants of up to £2K from the £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund. Admittedly £2K may not seem particularly generous in this situation. It is, however, there for the taking if you qualify. It may also be worth paying attention to industry news in case more funding is made available. The British Chambers of Commerce is lobbying hard for this.

If you want to keep exporting to the EU market, there are three main strategies you could use. The first is to get to grips with the technicalities of Brexit yourself. The second is to partner with someone who can deal with them for you. The third is to establish a base in the EU to reduce your exposure to transport delays.

History suggests that whenever governments throw up problems, entrepreneurs find solutions to them. In other words, there’s a good chance that companies will be working on finding ways to help exporters deal with the complexities of Brexit. Again, keep an eye on industry news for possible future options.

Expand into the rest of the world

One of the reasons why Brexit is proving such a challenge is that at the moment so much is still in flux. It would be nice to think that the end of COVID19 would be the cue for governments to get Brexit to work properly. In reality, however, it could be years before there is anything approaching a “last and final” Brexit deal.

By contrast, the UK’s trading relationships with the rest of the world, although not set in stone, are fairly well established. What’s more, the government is actively working hard to make them even more valuable. For example, it has recently launched the “Open Doors” campaign. This is aimed at boosting middle-class markets, especially for food and drink and particularly in Asia.

The government initiative is an astute move for two main reasons. Firstly, food and drink exporters have been particularly hard-hit by Brexit. This is mainly due to the perishable nature of their products. Secondly, food and drink tends to be a sector in which provenance is hugely important. This is legally recognized through controls on descriptions.

This move gives a hint as to how some exporters at least could be able to help themselves. In simple terms, growing brand recognition can do a lot to grow sales. Exporters might therefore want to work on raising their profile in key markets. Local partners may be able to help with this.

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