Invest North: Going global – exporting the North in a post Brexit world

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

Whether driven by necessity or the chances created by a new vision, businesses from across the North are well-placed to make an impact on the global stage.

Getting to grips with some of the key export issues for the Invest North conference was a panel chaired by’s Yorkshire editor, Ben Ormsby.

The panel included Marcus Mollinga, co-founder and director of supplements retailer YourZooki, Helen Jennings, finance director at medtech business Trio Healthcare and Thomas Webb, deputy director regions at the Department for International Trade. (DIT)

Mollinga and Jennings highlighted some of the problems their companies confronted as both Brexit and the pandemic battered Britain’s economy.

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

“With lockdown that all came to a stop, so we had to relocate 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, because of inconsistencies in the rules different countries are implementing.

“We found some of the bigger haulage companies were not very reliable, so we used our own guys in vans to move products in and out.

“We ended up using a local, Yorkshire-based freight forwarding business, which provided us with a much better service.”

Mollinga was blunt about the immediate impact of Brexit, saying it had been an “absolute nightmare” for his business, which exports a lot 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.

“That’s how we got over Brexit, but it took a lot of time, investment and energy. It was a massive headache and very challenging but we’ve managed to overcome it.”

Webb said one of the few upsides of the pandemic was how it had accelerated use of remote working technologies, making it easier for his department to talk to more businesses about problems they face.

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

“We’re now going through a series of fair trade agreements and we’re working to make sure the market conditions are right so businesses can benefit from opportunities in Europe and further afield.”

He said his department has trade advisors on hand to help companies wanting to export, and urged firms which have not yet engaged with the DIT to get in touch.

Mollinga and Jennings both had tips for companies wanting to export. Mollinga advised: “Start off really small, find and target one market and really nail the process of how to get into another country. Then after that you can scale much faster.”

Jennings said: “Find key partners or freight forwarders overseas, people you can trust who are already experts in that area. Don’t try and do it on your own.”