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What the EU referendum means for British manufacturing SMEs

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As business development & portfolio director of Subcon, it’s been impossible for me to avoid the arguments for and against how the vote and, more importantly, its outcome will affect British manufacturing and our SMEs operating within it.

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and Subcon, the UK’s manufacturing supply chain event, both undertook polls recently to gauge current thinking. Both surveys showed that the majority of UK manufacturers want Britain to stay in the EU.

• 61 per cent of EEF members want the UK to remain in the EU; 50 per cent of Subcon voters agreed

• 50 per cent of EEF members say remaining in the EU is important for their company; 46 per cent of Subcon voters believe their company will have a stronger future if the UK remains in the EU

• Five per cent of EEF members support Brexit; 37 per cent of Subcon voters think Britain should leave the EU and 13 per cent feel their company will have a stronger future by doing so

Finance directors have their say on what the most important economic issues are

Should we stay or should we go?

In my experience of talking to UK SMEs in this industry, the polls only paint half the picture, however. Many individuals are actually still undecided (13 per cent according to our poll) and remain pragmatic over the outcome knowing there are pros and cons to each result.

Questions include:

• What will happen to their customers post-vote – whether they are big exporters to Europe (BAE Systems, JCB), part of European wide organisations (Airbus, Siemens) or global businesses that have set up UK operations partly because the UK offers a gateway to Europe (Nissan, Terex, Toyota)?

• Will they still have access to skilled personnel from the EU – particularly from Eastern Europe – who are currently taking up the slack where they have problems finding skilled UK workers is also a concern?

• A tariff-free single market with common standards currently gives them better and more cost-effective access to materials and components. How will this change?

• Will leaving the EU and no longer being obliged to toe the line on employment law and environmental policies result in lower energy prices and waste processing costs?

• How long will it take to adapt to operating within a new market and will this period of uncertainty be damaging for my business?

Continue on the next page for details on how SMEs can survive the vote.


Image: Shutterstock

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