Vote Leave "facts" leaflet: exporting firms

Published: 23rd May 2016

In brief

Claim

Only 6 per cent of UK firms export to the EU, yet all have to abide by EU regulations on their business

Conclusion

There are no official figures of how many UK businesses export to the EU. This estimate is justifiable and we do know that around 5% of VAT-registered businesses exported to their EU peers in 2014/15.

“Only 6 per cent of UK firms export to the EU, yet all have to abide by EU regulations on their business”

There are no official figures of how many UK businesses export to the EU.

Vote Leave says the 6% figure is an update of analysis by Business for Britain, which estimated that up to 5% of UK companies exported to the EU in the period 2006-2012. We’ve asked Vote Leave for more details of the updated figures, but haven’t heard back. Newer data for 2014/15 sent to us by HMRC suggests the figure is still about 5%. This data isn’t public.

Business for Britain’s figures are calculated from sales lists that VAT-registered companies have to submit to HM Revenue and Customs for goods or services supplied to VAT-registered businesses in the EU.

This data won’t count all businesses exporting to the EU, but Business for Britain argues this data would account for the majority of exporters, as large companies—which will be VAT registered—are the most likely to export.

We asked HMRC, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Office for National Statistics if any of them knew how many non-VAT registered businesses export, and so whether this data does account for the majority of exporting businesses. None of them had any figures on this.

So it isn’t possible to say for certain whether this data accounts for the majority of exporters to other EU countries.

The 2014/15 data shows that 110,400 VAT-registered businesses exported to other VAT-registered businesses in the EU in that year. That’s 5% of all VAT or PAYE registered businesses in 2015.

Stronger in refers to estimates for the total number of businesses trading with the EU—including companies both importing and exporting. We’ve got more on this here.


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