Confidence among British exporters has jumped ahead of the official start of the Brexit process, a new poll shows, as revised figures reveal a 4.1 per cent increase in exports boosting UK growth at the end of 2016.
A balance of 43 per cent of manufacturing firms expect turnover to increase over the next year, as Britain begins the process of leaving the EU, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL.
Meanwhile one in five firms think it can translate increased turnover into higher profitability.
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting a rise in exports has remained strong in the final three months of 2016, at 16 per cent positive, the survey says, despite the prospect of political wrangling to come. Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, starting the two-year process of leaving the EU.
Exporters have been boosted by the fall in the value of sterling since the EU referendum vote, as firms buying in foreign currencies find purchases around 16 per cent cheaper in US dollar terms.
International trade contributed 1.3 percentage points of GDP growth in the fourth quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics, with a 4.1 per cent increase on total exports quarter-on-quarter.
The volume of documentation issued for trade outside the EU dropped by 1.42 per cent during the final quarter of 2016, but remains nearly five per cent above levels a year ago, the BCC and DHL report.
The EU remains the UK’s largest trading partner, but the UK is increasingly looking further afield in a bid to make trade deals outside of the bloc after Brexit.
Business investment has fallen in recent months as firms await signs of future trade relationships, but confidence in the economy has nevertheless improved after the UK economy accelerated at the end of 2016.
Adam Marshall, BCC director general, said: “Many exporters remain confident, in spite of uncertainty over our relationship with the EU.
“Our findings serve as a reminder that it is businesses that trade with other businesses, not governments – but they need support if they are to continue to be positive.”