Wednesday 23 June 2021 12:00 am

UK business given £12.3bn export support from government

The government’s export credit agency has announced it gave a “record level” of financial support to UK exporters in the last year.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) provided £12.3bn of support to UK exporters in the last financial year, almost three times the amount given in 2019-20, according to its annual results published today.

The agency, which works alongside the Department for International Trade, provides support for small and medium-sized enterprises that need loans, insurance policies or bank guarantees for export activities.

The number of UK businesses accessing its support has more than doubled since 2018, the agency said – what Marcus Dolman, co-chairman of the British Exporters’ Association called “heartening” and “positive”.

The agency forecast the number of businesses it supports to grow as a result of what minister for exports Graham Stuart called “ambitious” post-Brexit trade agreements.

UKEF estimates that its financial support to UK exporters during the pandemic has safeguarded up to 107,000 jobs, and helped key industries in the UK to survive.

£7.3bn was dedicated to exporters whose businesses were severely disrupted by the pandemic, the agency said. A large chunk of this support went to major exporters British Airways and easyJet, who received £2.5bn to help safeguard jobs at Luton and Heathrow airports.

Small businesses in London also benefitted from £215m as part of the agency’s Temporary Covid Risk Framework, introduced last April.

Clean energy focus

As well as its financials, UKEF said that minister for exports Graham Stuart will announce a new “Clean Energy” division of the government agency later today. The move is aimed at achieving the PM’s Green Industrial Revolution plan, and will see a 20-strong team work on UK exports in the renewables sectors.

“We are opening up the world’s fastest growing markets through the trade deals we are negotiating so that the UK can recover as quickly as possible from the pandemic,” said Graham Stuart.

“With a dedicated clean growth lending facility and the new Clean Energy team I’m announcing today, UKEF will help the economy grow back stronger, fairer and greener,” Stuart added.

Past concerns

The announcement comes a year after campaigners launched a probe into UKEF that found it was supporting sectors prone to corruption as part of its post-Brexit export drive.

Campaign group Spotlight on Corruption expressed particular concern at the time that UKEF was increasingly supporting newly established UK-registered subsidiaries of foreign construction firms that have been embroiled in corruption allegations.