UK Export Growth Under Pressure

UK Export Growth Under Pressure

British MPs have warned the government that strict visa controls and a lack of co-operation within the government can have a serious impact on UK exports.


You would think that the UK government would do everything they can to encourage export from the British Isles to the rest of the world.

However, according to an article on BBC News, this could not be further away from the truth.

British MPs have expressed their concerns about rigid visa controls and the lack of co-operation between the different departments of the government, which they believe frustrate the UK’s international export efforts.

According to the article, the Public Accounts Committee believes the target set by Chancellor George Osborne to double the UK export in 2020 to 1 trillion GBP will probably not be met. The PAC believes Britain is behind on countries such as Germany and Italy. Moreover, the BBC states that the £420 million invested by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UK Trade and Investment did nothing to improve the export growth. The BBC says that for the FCO, this had to do with a lack of information on the effects of their promotional efforts, while the UKTI is still on the look out to find new opportunities overseas.

The chairwoman of the PAC, Margaret Hodge, believes that especially small and medium size businesses have a lot to gain when it comes to taking the hurdles that come with finding new foreign markets. According to the committee, this means the FCO and the UKTI must improve their co-operation, but also believe the Home Office should sort out their visa procedures: business travellers might pass over the UK because of the strict visa entry requirements. As a consequence, these restrictions could lead to a downfall in export opportunities. This is why Hodge thinks, the UKTI and the FCO should work together with the Home Office to keep these complications to a minimum.

In terms of improvements, the FCO is very interested in extending the 3-5 day priority visa service. This service is currently available for 67 countries, but the FCO wishes to expand this to 90 countries. In addition, the existing same-day service that is available for India should be expanded to 7 other countries, including China, the FCO says.

According to the BBC article, a government spokesperson issued a statement to defend their measures. The spokesperson pointed out that the government could in no way have prevented the effects of the economic crisis. Moreover, the plans to meet the 2020 target are still unchanged and the government is shifting their focus from high-value opportunities to giving advice and support to small and medium companies. The spokesperson also noted that currently, the government is setting up an overseas business network with countries such as India and the UAE. And, the statement said,  the UK did see a growth in its export: the UK export to Russia, for example, has risen with 118 per cent.

Emma Tidey
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