Trade: a question of confidence

By Mike Chapman, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce
The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January and entered a transition period that will run up until 31 December 2020. During the transition period, EU rules and regulations on trade, travel and business between the UK and EU will remain unchanged.
Published in Suffolk Director Magazine Autumn/Winter 2020

The UK Government has ruled out the possibility of extending the transition period, and new rules will take effect from 1 January 2021, when the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union and operates a full, external border as a sovereign nation.

Back in March 2020, the UK and the EU began negotiations to scope out a future economic and trading relationship. Things have not worked out to plan and following the conclusion of numerous rounds of talks, the mood music from both London and Brussels remains at the lower end of the spectrum of probability that a trade agreement will be decided in time.

This comes at a time when businesses are working hard to regain full capacity, implementing COVID-19 social distancing and lockdown measures, and dealing with economic headwinds; all of which is influencing both consumer and business confidence.

Trade, both domestic and international, strengthens the resilience of businesses and continuing the flow of trade will be essential if the UK is to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. So, the question is, are we confident about our future trading opportunities with the EU and beyond?

Suffolk’s Innovative Brexit Approach

As a response to the challenges of Brexit, Suffolk Public Sector Leaders (SPSL) brought forward an innovative, collaborative and pragmatic business engagement model. Working in partnership with the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, SPSL agreed to invest funding in creating two business advisor posts specifically dedicated to advising on Brexit related issues. These posts work across all businesses and sectors in Suffolk providing advice, information and guidance.

Listening to the Business Community

As a Trade Business Adviser, it’s my role to listen to what businesses are saying. Before COVID-19 lockdown, businesses were coming to terms with the idea that trading with the EU would become more complex, time consuming and costly. Post lockdown, businesses still need to prepare; time is short, and our remit has widened with a focus on a longer term, strategic trade strategy for Suffolk.

One of the more positive outcomes of the pandemic has been global digital connectivity. Before, making contact with an overseas market could take days to organise, now there are daily requests to join online meetings, trade events and market updates. Even more encouraging for us is that we’ve witnessed a surge in requests from markets including China, Australia, the US, Singapore and Malaysia, to name a few, all interested in understanding the Suffolk economy, it’s key sectors and future business opportunities.

One thing is clear whether discussing Trade or Brexit, is that we need to build confidence in our businesses and to be honest and up front with them. International trade isn’t easy, but the rewards can be substantial as you can see the opportunities emerging.

Trade: a question of confidence 1

Mike Chapman and Koyas Miah are Trade Business Advisors at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.
For further information contact
E: T: 01473 694834
or Koyas:
E: T: 01473 694810
or visit

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