ship with goods

EXPERT COMMENT: The Government’s upbeat export strategy is masking a much darker reality for overseas networks

Economist Dr Huw Edwards picks apart the Government’s rhetorical vision of global export dominance and reveals a much more challenging future…

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox stood at a podium with the message ‘Exporting is great’ yesterday as he proposed Britain could be a "21st century exporting superpower" – but the reality is less dramatic.

The Tory cabinet minister was selling the Government’s Export Strategy and promised a future with better use of the UK's overseas network, new online tools and bolstering business networks.

However, in contrast to this optimistic future, the challenge has become much harder, not easier, following the Brexit vote.

While the government is keen to present a bullish picture of exports ‘at a record high’ and ‘an increase of 4.4% on a year ago’, the reality is that in terms of the foreign currency needed to purchase our imports, UK exports have done very poorly since the Brexit vote.

This is because sterling fell by around 10-15% against the dollar and euro following the Brexit vote, and remains at this low level.

Even though British firms are effectively discounting hard in export markets, they are still finding almost no extra buyers.

In fact, research suggests the number of firms entering into export markets is 5% lower than we would have expected pre-vote.

When we take account that firms are also selling less (in dollar terms), the gap is even bigger.

Our own research at Loughborough, Aston and Warwick indicates that, correcting for the growth of markets, we are selling around 13%  less (measured in foreign currency) than we would have expected before the vote.

The primary cause seems to be increased uncertainty and a loss of confidence by exporters.

It is good that the UK government is reviewing and looking at improving its export promotion measures.

We have to hope that in its policy on trade agreements (including with the EU) it does not shoot itself in the foot by making the current bad situation worse.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/118

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.