New research by financial and business advisers Grant Thornton found that 53% of Milton Keynes firms and 51% of Northamptonshire questioned are gearing up to grow their current overseas business during 2015.

Another 13% in North Bucks and 9% in Northants saying they plan to begin exporting for the first time.

Many are also assessing new overseas markets in the next 12 months, in particular mainland Europe and the USA as wel as China, India and Brazil.

Grant Thornton director Giles Mullins pictured, at the firm’s Milton Keynes office, said: “It is encouraging to see such a large proportion of our county’s MSBs with a firm eye on international business and confident about future exporting.”

Exports by firms in the East of England grew by 4.5% last year but with growing instability in the Eurozone, sterling’s strength against the euro, the General Election next month and growth in business confidence slowing, that figure will be hard to match this year, Grant Thornton analysts believe.

Director Ashley Clarkson pictured, based at Northampton, said: “A step change in mindset is needed from whichever party or parties take residence in Downing Street in May which must include considerations for supporting our businesses in new markets abroad, particularly where demand for ‘Brand Britain’ carries a premium.

"Only this will ensure a long-term, sustainable and diversified business environment.”

A total 42% of businesses said that overseas legislation and red tape were their main barriers to international trade. A quarter said finding the right staff to develop the business abroad was difficult but more than a third said they use support organisations such as UK Trade & Investment to develop their export activity.

Mr Mullins said: “UK MSBs have been outperforming other businesses when it comes to export growth. However, many still remain apprehensive of ventures into overseas markets, fearful in particular of regulatory and cultural barriers.

“But the agility of MSBs actually puts them at a competitive advantage, making them very well placed to overcome those challenges and seize the opportunities in high growth markets.”

Mr Clarkson added: “The vast majority of MSBs looking to expand internationally tend to be focused on Western Europe and North America but it is worth exploring beyond these regions to capitalise on higher growth areas such as India, China and South Africa. With the right support, the rewards could potentially be even greater.” 

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