UK export index on the rise as Brexit looms

07 / 03 / 2018

A new report commissioned by Heathrow Airport management suggests that the UK export climate is in its "strongest position" since the year 2000 

The quarterly Export Climate Index (ECI) tracks the health of the UK’s export economy and its impacts on families and businesses across the country. 

The index, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), is the first of its kind and, said Heathrow Airport, will become "increasingly important as the Government moves to establish a new trading strategy, outside of the European Union (EU)".

The report finds the UK Export Climate is in its strongest position since the index began in 2000, signalling a "positive sign" as the UK approaches the anniversary of triggering article 50 which began process of leaving the EU, commonly known at Brexit.

The index considers eight measures such as Heathrow flight numbers – including passenger flights, which altogether carry 95% of the airport’s cargo volumes.

The UK airport group added: "Over the last decade, CEBR has found Heathrow’s share in the value of non-EU export goods held steady around 30%, but the value of this cargo has grown exponentially, by over 150%. 

"In 2017 alone, £48.9bn worth of UK exports bound for destinations outside the EU/Switzerland flew through Heathrow.

"This analysis clearly shows Heathrow’s role as the main gateway for UK exports bound outside the EU, and the airport’s role to facilitate UK trade post-Brexit, particularly with countries like the US, currently the most frequent destination for airport exports."

The index finds rising oil prices and the appreciation of the pound in the last three months of 2017 have been offset by UK producers’ high expectations for the future, which ultimately led to an improvement in the export climate.

There is also increasing consumer confidence among the UK trading partner nations, as government spending drives growth in the US, and China continues to enjoy steady growth.

Said Heathrow Airport: "As the UK’s largest port for non-EU exports by value, the growth of Heathrow will have a direct effect on people across the UK. The Index shows the positive effects of Heathrow’s work in 2017 to increase efficiencies and marginally grow its route network to include new routes from FlyBe and Beijing Capital.

"This increase in flights has offset the decrease in sea port freight units leaving the UK in the last quarter of 2017. While positive, this result is not guaranteed for years to come as Heathrow becomes increasingly constrained."

It continued: "An expanded Heathrow will release capacity, allowing connections to 40 new long haul destinations, doubling cargo capacity and ultimately more opportunities for the UK’s export climate."  

Previous CEBR research has shown Heathrow’s third runway could add an additional £24,480 of GDP per UK family between 2019 and 2078, compared to another runway at Gatwick. 

Commenting on the index, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Now more than ever, the UK needs to secure its status as an outward-looking global trading nation.

"It is clear that Heathrow is essential to trade outside the EU,  but as we continue to operate at  capacity, we will jeopardise new routes and trade with the rest of the world.  

"True transformative change to our flight network – and consequently the UK’s export climate – will only be achieved through the our expansion so we can connect all corners of the UK to the growing markets of the world.”

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