As the UK settles into its new trading relationship with Europe and the world, we asked businesses across the globe what their international plans are.

Export expectations for UK mid-market businesses have increased to 43%. This is the highest level recorded since our global research began 29 years ago. It’s also much higher than the UK’s long-term average, which sits at 25%.

Over one-third (37%) of the UK firms surveyed expect to increase the number of countries they sell to. With firms looking to expand beyond regional trade partners, destinations such as China, US (United States) and India are perceived to offer the most opportunity for growth.

It’s encouraging to see that 14% of UK businesses said that they had moved into new non-domestic markets in the last 12 months. While it's been a challenging time to expand internationally, 28% said they had grown their exports by more than 5% over the same period.

Revenue expectations from non-domestic markets increased dramatically compared to the same period in 2020. This year, 42% of UK businesses expected an increase, compared to just 23% in the first half of 2020.

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This positive outlook on international markets was also reflected in employment in this sector. Just under a third (32%) of businesses were expecting to increase their ratio of employees focused on non-domestic markets. Given the restrictions put on international growth during COVID-19, and the fact that these restrictions are starting to lift, it feels as though the market is rebalancing.

International growth at a glance - UK vs global

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What our experts say...

“As countries successfully vaccinate their populations against coronavirus, international markets are opening up again. More companies are now shifting their sales and supply chain focus back to international markets, including in the UK. This trend is important in isolation but also highlights unique internationalisation opportunities for all mid-market companies.”

Andrew Howie, Head of International at Grant Thornton UK LLP

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