Investing in the North: going global – exporting the North in a post-Brexit world

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The UK has sought to reshape its trading relationship with the world in recent years.

Whether driven by necessity or the opportunities created by a new vision, Northern businesses are well positioned to make an impact on the global stage.

A panel chaired by TheBusinessDesk.com Yorkshire Editor Ben Ormsby looked at some of the key export issues for the Invest North conference.

The panel included Marcus Mollinga, co-founder and director of supplement retailer YourZooki, Helen Jennings, chief financial officer of medtech company Trio Healthcare, and Thomas Webb, deputy director of regions at the Department for International Trade. (SAID)

Mollinga and Jennings highlighted some of the issues their businesses were facing as Brexit and the pandemic hit the UK economy.

Jennings said the COVID-19 outbreak erupted when Trio was developing new technology together with partners in Berlin.

“With the lockdown everything came to a halt so we had to move some of the manufacturing to our own factory in Skipton,” she said.

“Also, trading anything in and out of Europe post-Brexit has been an ‘interesting’ experience, due to inconsistencies in the rules that different countries implement.

“We found that some of the larger haulage companies weren’t very reliable, so we used our own guys in vans to move products in and out.

“We ended up using a local freight forwarding company based in Yorkshire who gave us a much better service.”

Mollinga was candid about the immediate impact of Brexit, saying it had been an “absolute nightmare” for his business, which exports much of its goods to Europe.

“We set up a company and a warehouse in Ireland and since then it has become much easier,” he added.

“This is how we overcame Brexit, but it took a lot of time, investment and energy. It was a huge headache and very difficult, but we managed to overcome it.

Webb said one of the few benefits of the pandemic was how she had accelerated the use of remote work technologies, making it easier for her department to talk to more companies about the issues they face.

“We are seeing a rebound from the initial impact and green shoots of recovery for exporters,” he said.

“We are currently going through a series of fair trade agreements and working to ensure that market conditions are right so that businesses can benefit from opportunities in Europe and beyond.”

He said his department has trade advisers to help companies wishing to export and urged companies that have not yet committed to the DIT to get in touch.

Mollinga and Jennings both had tips for companies looking to export. Mollinga advised, “Start very small, find and target one market, and really nail the process of getting into another country. Then you can scale much faster.

Jennings said: “Find key partners or freight forwarders overseas, trusted people who are already experts in this field. Don’t try to do it yourself.

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