FleishmanHillard’s latest research report on trade shows the EU remains the most important international market for UK business


FleishmanHillard Research Shows the EU Remains the Most Important Market for Trade, but is Affected by Issues at the Border and Across Supply Chains

73% of Business Leaders see Correlation Between International Trade, Business Performance and Corporate Reputation


The global environment for trade has been through a difficult few years, with the impacts of COVID-19 and Russia’s war in Ukraine putting pressure on trade systems and supply chains. But a recent survey by global communications and public affairs consultancy FleishmanHillard shows that post-Brexit disruption is of greatest concern to UK business executives seeking to engage in import and export operations, both with EU customers and globally.

To measure the impact of these critical issues for UK businesses trading globally, TRUE Global Intelligence, FleishmanHillard’s in-house research and analytics group, surveyed more than 200 senior decisions makers from medium and large enterprise businesses in the UK in January 2023. The study follows FleishmanHillard’s ‘Tackling International Trade’ research on similar issues one year ago.

Of those surveyed:

  • 62% reported post-Brexit disruption was having the biggest impact on UK business, compared to 54% reporting COVID-19 disruption.
  • Only 27% of respondents noted protectionism limiting market access as the most significant impact on their trade operations.
  • Meanwhile, 57% believe trade with the EU is harder than one year ago, while only 13% believe it is easier.

The European market was identified as the important trade market for UK businesses, ahead of the United States, at 63% and 17% of respondents, respectively.

Despite this, confidence in the UK Government’s approach to international trade has remained evenly spread across high and low confidence and is steady compared to last year’s research. Additionally, business leaders’ views of the UK’s attractiveness as an investment destination do not seem to have been impacted by the turbulence of Brexit in the same manner as trade.

Business leaders also recognised international trade issues have a wider impact on their company, with 73% reporting a connection between international trade issues and their company’s reputation. This includes 32% noting international trade has a negative impact on reputation.

“Resolving the barriers to EU trade remains a top priority for UK business leaders, and they feel trade is becoming harder, not easier. With the vote on the Windsor Framework having passed comfortably in the House of Commons on 22nd March, we may be seeing a first vital step from the Government to address these trade barriers with the EU”, said Michael Hartt, senior partner and head of International Affairs at FleishmanHillard in the UK.

Whether it is pressure on supply chains, customs and border entry delays, or access to markets, companies must navigate trade issues with their stakeholders in mind. This makes proactive and reactive communication even more essential for the success of their business – whether it is to customers, suppliers, partners, political and regulatory bodies or the public.”

The research also found:

  • Uncertainty remains a challenge: The top two barriers to EU trade are believed to be uncertainty in relationships and border/customs controls.
  • Regulatory and legal clarity matter most: More than anything else, businesses want regulatory and legal clarity when considering new investment for their business. This was above subsidies and tax or regulation free zones such as freeports.
  • Post-Brexit disruption requires solutions: The issue businesses most wanted government to resolve is post-Brexit disruption (52%), whilst protectionism issues rank low, with 18% prioritising market access issues and 14% calling for support retaining market share.

FleishmanHillard’s Public Affairs and International Affairs teams help companies navigate political, policy and regulatory risk, identifying and leveraging opportunities to engage policymakers and stakeholders in a complex, rapidly changing environment. In partnership with clients, we devise strategies to enable them to advocate effectively and demonstrate leadership, protecting their licence to operate and bolstering their reputation through authentic communication to achieve their desired business and public affairs outcomes.


Results in the 2023 FleishmanHillard International Trade Report are based on an online survey of 201 senior decisions makers from medium and large enterprise businesses in the UK. The survey was conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence, FleishmanHillard’s in-house research and analytics group, and responses were collected in January 2023. Results are reported at the 95% confidence level with a margin of error of +/- 6.9%.


About FleishmanHillard

FleishmanHillard specializes in public relations, reputation management, public affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content strategy. FleishmanHillard was named 2021 PRovoke Global Agency of the Year; 2021 ICCO Network of the Year; 2021 Campaign Global PR Agency of the Year; 2022-2023 PRWeek U.S. Agency of the Year and Outstanding Extra-Large Agency of the Year; 2023 Campaign US PR Agency of the Year; 2021 PRovoke APAC Consultancy of the Year; 2021 PRWeek UK Large Consultancy of the Year; Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality 2018-2022; and to Seramount’s (formerly Working Mother Media) “Top Companies for Executive Women” list 2010-2022. FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and has nearly 80 offices in more than 30 countries, plus affiliates in 45 countries.

About Omnicom Public Relations Group 

Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, language strategy, global health strategy and change management. As the largest group of communications professionals in the world, our employees provide expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the Communications Consultancy Network, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC).