Why manufacturers need a carefully engineered Brexit

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Manufacturing has a key role to play in ensuring post-Brexit Britain is a great success. This is why we are urging the Government to deliver a measured and considered Brexit plan that supports investment, ensures business certainty and allows manufacturers to play their full part in helping the UK achieve its post-EU economic and global trading ambitions. 

Our full report, published in partnership with Squire Patton Boggs, can be read here, but I think it is worth teasing out some of its key points.

First amongst these is that we are in no doubt that the UK must negotiate a bespoke deal with the EU that specifically addresses our country’s unique needs and recognises the special relationship we enjoy with the EU. An off-the-peg model, such as Norway’s or Switzerland’s, would not be in the UK’s best interests. 

Secondly, over eight in ten manufacturers export to the EU and our research shows that a 10% tariff on exports to the region would have a negative impact on a significant number. This makes it critical that Brexit negotiations deliver ongoing unrestricted access to this key market. 

It is essential to address the uncertainty around the Customs Union - a solution should be sought that enables manufacturers to continue to trade freely with the EU, without significant burden, while also pursuing ambitious international trade deals with countries outside the Union.  

At the same time, non-tariff barriers, such as regulations and product standards, are equally as important for exporters. These must be given level-pegging when negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU, as well as in all future trade deals. 

Thirdly, we recognise that the Government’s hardest balancing act will be over freedom of movement. We urge it to seek a new alternative that balances any need to manage immigration pressures, but importantly also allows business to continue to hire easily, operate smoothly and deploy employees between countries, albeit with more controls in place.

We are clear that there are some great opportunities to be grasped from Brexit. Key amongst these for manufacturers is the future expansion of free trade outside of the EU. It is an exciting prospect and, if harnessed fully, could support jobs, growth and wealth generation here in the UK.

Another opportunity comes with an important caveat. While in the short-term we are calling on Government to maintain clarity and certainty in regulation and policy, we recognise that in the longer-term there is an opportunity to pull back from EU regulation where it demonstrably doesn’t work for the UK.

This process – and indeed the entire Brexit journey - must be managed carefully and in full collaboration with industry. This is the best way for the UK to capitalise on opportunities to come from being outside of the EU, and hopefully avoid any unforeseen and damaging consequences.

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