With the UK’s Brexit negotiations beginning to gather pace, the whole question of exports has become a lot more complicated over the last 12 months. With big changes approaching over the way the UK not only interacts with its European neighbours, but also the wider world, John Davies, Chairman of the BSIA's Export Council and Managing Director of TDSi, looks at the potential opportunities that could be presented following the triggering of Article 50.
Along with the UK, there has been an unexpected shift in world politics. This is most noticeable in the US, with a new administration that promises to review its international trading agreements and is looking to more strictly control the flow of people and goods.
The UK’s own Brexit negotiations could well also alter the movement of people and goods, especially with our EU neighbours. Understandably there is concern over potential new tariffs to pay and restrictions on the movement of skilled labour, which weren’t an issue before.
It’s important to remember that politics change, but commerce will still require strong trade links and it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure this continues. This may require some fresh thinking on the way we export, but there is a whole world of markets and potential customers to be explored!
A change of focus
Whilst the EU has always been an important market for the UK, many security suppliers will readily admit there are many alternatives globally. Following the Recession a few years ago, the European market has witnessed steady growth, but certainly from my experience, hasn’t been the most exciting one in terms of expansion.
Undoubtedly China has been a key market for many UK suppliers. Whilst it is arguably the ‘workshop of the world’ for mass production, Chinese security buyers are very savvy when it comes to finding the best solutions for their growing needs. Security systems, by their very nature, need to offer the best protection for their customers and state-of-the-art UK systems continue to appeal to Chinese buyers.
Overall, Southeast Asia is an exciting region for UK security providers. Along with China, we should be looking at significant up-and-coming markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia – which is constantly proving to be a dynamic place to do business.
The Middle East is a region which is looking very promising after a spell of political and economic unrest. With the desire to protect vital oil regions and assets for example, along with considerable financial backing, these are the kinds of markets where UK security exports excel.
Africa is another interesting and potentially highly lucrative region for UK security exporters. Northern Africa has obvious security needs, but moving further south there is a keen demand for excellent solutions in Nigeria (a huge economic hub) and the southern states, including South Africa.
New trade agreements
Whilst Brexit will undoubtedly shake UK export laws with the EU, it will of course allow the UK to negotiate new deals with other regions or states that would have been dictated by European law beforehand.
This could, for example, see favourable deals conducted with parts of Asia or South America, which may have been less attractive in the past. Equally, political alliances may see the UK benefit in trade agreements with the US compared to revival exporters.
What we need to remember is that UK security technology has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, quality and value-for-money around the world. It is easy to take a narrow view over the end of established trading agreements, but it is important to look at the potential opportunities and fully embrace them moving forwards.