Investing in Suffolk Trade as UK exits EU


As the end of the UK’s transition period for exiting the EU draws ever closer, Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders continue to pay close attention to progress.

As part of their November meeting, Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders met to hear more about how Suffolk is preparing and proactively planning to support future economic growth by strengthening Suffolk’s trade offer.

Throughout the transition period, which began when the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders have maintained a keen focus on local issues through the work of the county’s Brexit Task Group, which was established to understand and plan for what support and potential mitigation local businesses and residents may need.

As part of this, Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders today agreed to invest £490,000 over the next three years to support the continued strategic growth of Suffolk’s economy and business community and to support future local and regional business interests.

The money will be used by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to strengthen Suffolk’s trade offer as Trade Advisors proactively represent the interests of Suffolk’s businesses and communities by showcasing local products and services. They will also identify, encourage and foster relationships with EU businesses, provide tailored advice and support to Suffolk businesses looking to enter international markets, and protect local business interests which need to operate under the new rules following the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Suffolk Trade team will be formed of the two existing Trade Business Advisors who were recruited to support Suffolk’s efforts in March 2019, when Suffolk Public Sector Leaders agreed to invest £243,600 as part of Suffolk’s allocation of Government funding. The latest round of funding will enable the extension of these Advisor roles through to 2023.

The £490,000 is made up from the following amounts, which will be used to fund Suffolk Trade over the next three years:

  • £350,000 – to be used from the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders’ pooled business rates budget
  • £140,000 – to be used from the Suffolk’s allocation of the Government’s Brexit funding

As well as covering the employment costs for two advisors, this funding will in time be used to recruit a further member of the Suffolk Trade team and will cover operational costs for communications, events and web-based information that will be used by the team to support local businesses and foster relationships with international markets.

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Chair of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders Group, said:

“This is an investment in the future prosperity of Suffolk’s economy and our communities. Its benefits will stretch far beyond Suffolk’s boundaries, supporting business supply chains that cover the rest of the UK. The ambition of Suffolk Public Sector Leaders has always been to work collaboratively to minimise the risks posed by the EU exit and maximise the opportunities presented by the change in relationship with international markets.

“As the EU Exit transition period ends, the UK’s relationship with the EU will change and it is natural for many of us to feel a degree of anxiety and uncertainty. The Suffolk Trade team will continue the great work of the existing business advisors, demonstrating the importance that Suffolk Public Sector Leaders places on maintaining a buoyant local economy and ensuring Suffolk businesses are best placed to drive inclusive growth which is a key aspect of Suffolk’s Covid recovery plan.

“The progress of this service will be reported back to Suffolk Public Sector Leaders on a regular basis to ensure the resources are being used in the most effective way to support businesses and communities across Suffolk. In the longer term, we hope to see the return on investment reflected in the levels of new inbound and outbound investment and business seen across the eastern region and in Suffolk. This includes growth in employment and skills.”

Chief Executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, John Dugmore, said:

“We are delighted to be working alongside Suffolk Public Sector Leaders, and at a time when business confidence is at a historic low because of COVID-19 and EU withdrawal, this opportunity will help our trade team promote and enhance Suffolk’s offer to the world, drive growth and investment and help our businesses navigate the new norms ahead.

“Thanks to the work of the Chamber’s Trade Advisors, Suffolk businesses feel more prepared for EU withdrawal having had access to further information, advice and strategic counsel. As part of the 53 accredited chambers in the UK, but also 60 chambers worldwide, we have the links to help Suffolk businesses grow on the international stage and help the county recover from the crippling effects of COVID-19.

“Our research to date indicates that Suffolk exports nearly half a billion pounds per annum and it is therefore vital that we continue to support businesses post 1st January. Key issues will include the UK’s new border operating model, supply-chain resilience, access to new markets, and arrangements with freight forwarders and those in the logistics/shipping industries. Our offer will now be expanded to build long-term capacity and support our many businesses looking to grow and reap the benefits of future trade agreements.”