Failure to agree a UK/EU trade deal would do ‘significant damage’ damage to North West firms, the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, claims. Tony McDonough reports
North West manufacturers would face “significant damage” to their businesses if the UK and the EU failed to agree a new trade deal by the end of 2020.
That is the stark warning from Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, which says that the sector accounts for 15% of the regional economy. It employs 342,000 people in the North West, accounting for almost one in 10 of the total workforce.
The Make UK/BDO annual survey highlights the critical importance of the sector to the North West economy and how its success is underpinned by its strong relationship with the EU. The region accounts for 8% of UK total manufacturing exports an 52% of all goods are exported to the EU.
Companies in the region are already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. Jaguar Land Rover, which currently employs around 4,000 people in Merseyside, said it was cutting 1,000 jobs across its UK operations. And, in the last few days, planemaker Airbus said more than 1,400 jobs would go from its factory in Deeside.
Both automotive and aerospace are mentioned in the Make/BDO report which highlights how both sectors have been hit by the double whammy of Brexit uncertainty and COVID-19.
Transport equipment remains the biggest manufacturing sector in the North West accounting for almost a fifth of output (17.7%) while the pharmaceutical and chemicals sectors are also significant contributors to North West industry, accounting for just under a third of regional output between them.
Pharmaceuticals in particular is an especially strong performer and has benefited from the spike in demand due to COVID, and leading to the North West being the UK’s most productive industrial region at 118% of the national average.
June Smith, director of member engagement for Make UK in the North, said: “There are well documented challenges going forward, not least the major impact of COVID-19 and the global economic downturn, the results of which are likely to be felt for some time.
“Furthermore, the outcome of Brexit has the potential to have an impact on the future performance of manufacturers in the North West given the exposure to the EU as a major export market. If we are to avoid a double whammy hit on the sector it is essential that the UK agrees a trade deal before the end of the year that prevents barriers to trade.”