The potential of many UK exporters is being held back by uncertainty over Brexit, tariffs and exchange rate volatility, according to a new report.

A study by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Bibby Financial Services suggested that the lack of clarity over the UK's future trading environment was "clearly taking its toll".

A survey of 1,140 businesses found that Brexit uncertainty was the main barrier to exporting.

Only a minority of firms that only trade in the UK expect to start exporting or importing goods over the next three years, said the report.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: "UK businesses are facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty on multiple trading fronts and, unsurprisingly, they're holding back on importing and exporting.

"Just this week, the Government finally provided some certainty around tariffs - but the damage of uncertainty was already done for many firms.

"While international trade always involves an element of risk for businesses, Government should be working to lower barriers rather than increasing them.

"Preventing a messy and disorderly Brexit is the immediate priority, but ensuring continuity of trade with third countries and providing firms with clear and timely information about future trade processes would go a long way to removing unnecessary obstacles."

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Edward Winterton, UK chief executive at Bibby Financial Services, said: "Chronic uncertainty resulting from Brexit is undoubtedly stifling international trade amongst UK SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).

"Importers and exporters are in limbo and many are postponing investment decisions while they await further information.

"Many others are focusing resources on ensuring they're prepared to deal with the potential impacts of a no-deal scenario."

A government spokeswoman said: "It is unclear how representative this survey is of the business population with products or services traded internationally, or if it takes account of the normal churn in firms which start and stop exporting each year as part of the normal dynamics of our economy.

"We have already signed trade continuity agreements with countries accounting for £100 billion of UK trade to safeguard the needs of our exporters and will continue to work with trade associations to ensure businesses are ready to trade as we approach Brexit on October 31."