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The Export Support Service (ESS)

The Export Support Service (ESS)


The last six years have highlighted first-hand the importance of resilience in business – from adapting to the UK leaving the EU, to a global pandemic and most recently the incredibly sad events in Ukraine. Exporting can be an important way to secure your business through challenging times and whilst it is completely understandable for businesses to look inward, I would encourage businesses to consider the opportunities international trade present, and the support available from the Department for International Trade to navigate those opportunities.

Last year, the department announced a refreshed cross-government Export Strategy: Made in the UK, Sold to the World. As part of the ‘Race to £1 Trillion,’ we are setting an ambition to boost exports to ensure the UK recovers from the pandemic and builds back better and greener.

The strategy seeks to address the range of barriers to exporting experienced by UK businesses, particularly Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs), such as the costs, lack of knowledge, constraints in capacity and networks often cited as issues. We are committed to working together with businesses to help them to succeed in the global marketplace through a first-class export support framework that will support jobs and economic growth across the UK.

Through the strategy’s 12-point plan, we have set a clear direction of travel to ensure the UK’s support services for exporters meet a changing trading landscape. One that allows UK businesses to seize the opportunities secured through our new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and our broader efforts to remove market access barriers which will level up the UK, project Global Britain and support our transition to Net-Zero.

At the centre of the Export Strategy and our drive to transform the UK’s system of export support is the Export Support Service (ESS). 

Launched on 1st October, the ESS can help UK businesses get answers to practical questions about exporting to Europe by accessing cross-government information and support all in one place. We have listened to businesses and responded to their ask for easier access to government support for exporters. This service will help UK businesses take advantage of new trading opportunities and help them on their exporting journey, growing their businesses and international exporting potential. The Department is committed to working with businesses and business representative groups from all sectors, in all parts of the UK, to help make the service as useful as possible for businesses at every stage of their exporting journey.

The ESS will initially focus on questions businesses have about trading with Europe. However, we have expanded the remit from focusing on questions about trading with Europe to answering those regarding sanctions and trade with Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and will continue to expand to more global markets this year.

The service is available for any UK business and is completely free. Businesses and traders can contact the ESS online via the digital service at or by phoning the helpline (0300 303 8955) to get in touch with one of our dedicated export support teams.

The new service brings together well-established government support and helps SMEs navigate existing sources of information (such as HMRC’s Customs and International Trade helpline and Defra’s Rural Services helpline). It sits alongside the Department of International Trade’s wider package of support for exporters, helping UK businesses export more and with more confidence.

Sitting behind the service, is a dedicated Policy Team, working with colleagues across Government to understand the challenges that businesses are facing exporting, advocating, and driving policy changes to boost exports.

And as part of our efforts to continuously improve the service, the Department of International Trade will continue to work with businesses and business representative groups from all sectors, in all parts of the UK, to help make the service as useful as possible for businesses at every stage of their exporting journey.

To contact the team please visit or call 0300 303 8955.


By Paul McComb
Director – UK Exports
Department for International Trade

Paul McComb is the Director of UK Exports at the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Paul has worked in International Trade for the past six years and was responsible for setting up the Department in 2016, he followed this with a four-year tour in Hong Kong as Director-General for Trade and Investment. Prior to working on Trade, Paul was the Principal Private Secretary to Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (DWP), where he helped to deliver the biggest reform of the Welfare State in 60 years.
Prior to this, he served on the Delivery Board of Jobcentre Plus for four years, where he led an organisation of 25,000 people, paying out £50 billion in welfare benefits to 4 million customers, headed up the planning and performance function and led the organisational design and transformation programme.

Previous roles include:

  • Director-General Trade and Investment, Hong Kong 2017-2021
  • Director, Transition Programme DIT 2016 – 2017
  • Managing Director of Strategy at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI): 2016
  • Director, Principal Private Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions: 2011 – 2016
  • Deputy Director, Welfare Policy, Department for Work and Pensions: 2011
  • Director, Working Age Benefit Operations, Department for Work and Pensions: 2009 – 2011
  • Deputy Director, Jobcentre Plus, Department for Work and Pensions: 2005 – 2009
  • The Export Support Service (ESS)