The need for practical solutions for sustained growth

Published:  14 December, 2023

The Chancellor’s recent Autumn Statement has resulted in a range of opinions among industry leaders, highlighting both commendations and reservations within the manufacturing sector. The most notable was Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, who was pleased with the Chancellor’s strategy for providing long-awaited policy certainty crucial for investment decisions. The permanence of full expensing and initiatives to boost engineering apprenticeships align with industry aspirations, prompting Phipson to call for seizing the gauntlet and unlocking transformative growth, which is difficult not to agree with.

However, amid the optimism, the call from Britain’s manufacturers for continued collaboration with the EU is equally important for the future of UK manufacturing. The plea for improved trade conditions and enhancements to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) reflects the persistent challenges faced by companies trading across the Channel. Customs paperwork, border delays, and logistics hurdles remain significant obstacles, with the complexities of demonstrating Rules of Origin adding an additional layer of difficulty for many businesses.

Despite the challenges, a substantial percentage of companies continue to export to the EU, emphasising the resilience of the manufacturing sector. Data also reveals a shift in global export destinations, with the US emerging as a critical market alongside other non-EU destinations like Northern Ireland, Asia & Pacific, and Canada. This diversification suggests that companies may be leveraging newfound expertise in navigating complex customs rules to explore opportunities in wider global markets.

The ongoing labour shortage in the UK’s manufacturing sector adds another layer of complexity, with accessing skilled EU workers proving to be a key challenge. The data underscores the difficulties in recruiting from the EU and highlights the slow recognition of labour shortages in the UK’s Shortage Occupation List. Calls for cooperation with the EU on business mobility and recognition of professional qualifications emphasise the sector’s need for strategic solutions.

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, manufacturers are urging the government to build on the collaborative spirit demonstrated in the Windsor Framework, addressing practical challenges in the implementation of the TCA. Calls for a simplified Trusted Trader scheme, greater cooperation on regulation, and mutual recognition of tariff and valuation rulings underscore the industry’s plea for streamlined processes and enhanced trade support. As the UK and EU navigate the evolving landscape of post-Brexit trade, collaboration and practical solutions are deemed essential for the sustained growth of the manufacturing sector. On behalf of the PWE team, I would like to wish all our readers, advertisers, and supporters a healthy and happy 2024.

Aaron Blutstein, Editor

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