Insurance · 21 June 2016

Exports can drive business growth, claims Sajid Javid 

Sajid Javid 2
Speaking at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool, Sajid Javid encouraged small firms in the north to export

The business secretary, Sajid Javid, has encouraged small businesses in the North of England to consider exporting as a route to growth.

Suggesting that exports can and should be considered the driving force behind the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, Javid called on more small business owners in the north of the country to look towards international trade.

Speaking to hundreds of delegates from the small business community at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool on 21 June, the business secretary said: “It’s never been easier for small firms to start exporting and the potential rewards have never been greater. Exporting is great for business owners, great for their bottom line and it’s great for the north.”

According to recent government figures, just one-in-five small businesses in the UK currently export, compared to a one-in-four Europe-wide average. Despite SME’s making up all but one per cent of British business, just 34 per cent of the country’s mid-sized companies currently export.

Javid added: “Today’s customers don’t think twice about finding the best product at the best price and ordering it from the other side of the world. Exporting can really put the power into the Northern Powerhouse, and it’s not just for big-name companies.”

With the aim of increasing levels of economic growth outside of London and the South East of England, the central focus of the Northern Powerhouse initiative is to devolve greater powers to the North of England while better linking cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield.

Despite considerable government backing, a recent survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that just half the North of England’s small business owners believe the Northern Powerhouse will have a positive impact on their firm, while 16 per cent still don’t fully understand the benefits of the policy.

Speaking about the Northern Powerhouse in February, FSB chairman Mike Cherry said that the continued support of the small business community for the initiative rested on whether the government could deliver what it promised. “Businesses want the ongoing political discussions about devolving powers to translate into real investment in the infrastructure Northern businesses need,” Cherry added.

In his speech on 21 June, Javid warned once again that small businesses would be the hardest hit should Britain vote to leave the EU on 23 June. Commenting on the looming prospect of a Brexit, the business secretary said: “The tariffs, custom checks and bureaucracy of the past will make a screeching return. Big businesses might be able to cope with that, but small businesses simply don’t have the resources to cope with the uncertainty.”

Comparing the EU to FIFA and going down with the Titanic – read on to find out why small business remains divided over Brexit.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

Business development