PwC and Make UK survey highlights business concerns over post Brexit trading

By - World Infrastructure Journal

Fears over the impact of the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU and the attractiveness of the UK for both investment and talent are clouding the outlook for manufacturers as they enter 2021, according to a major survey published yesterday by Make UK and PwC.

The 2021 Make UK/PwC Executive survey revealed that a third of companies believe the investment prospects for UK businesses will decrease having left the EU and just over a quarter (26 per cent) believe exports to the EU will fall.

The survey also found that a third of respondents believe the UK’s ability to attract international talent will decrease with just over a tenth believing that the UK will be a more attractive destination outside the EU. According to Make UK this potentially puts at risk the ambition of the Government’s new immigration system which is specifically designed to encourage the best talent to come to the UK.

Customs delays were also named by 47 per cent of companies as the largest threat with concerns over national and local lockdowns named as the second biggest risk. .

Make UK Chief Executive Stephen Phipson, said that: “To ensure we cement the role of industry in the future economy we need to see a strategic vision from Government for the whole economy across the UK. This must go way beyond short term tinkering and involve an industrial strategy that takes at least a decade long horizon with the whole of Government putting its shoulder to the wheel to deliver it. ”

Despite the concerns over the new trading relationship with the EU and the attractiveness of the UK almost 48% of companies see a significant or moderate improvement for manufacturing in 2021.

The survey also provides encouraging indicators on the strategies manufacturers are adopting to build resilience and agility into their business by investing in people, new products, markets and technologies.

While controlling costs remains the biggest priority for companies, over half of manufacturers are investing in new product development with a similar number also planning capital investment, both of which encompass a significant commitment to digital technologies. Encouragingly, a quarter of companies are looking to re-shore overseas activities while 25 per cent are looking to identify new or additional suppliers in the UK as a high priority.

Cara Haffey, PwC UK’s manufacturing and automotive leader commented:“I found it heartening to see that so many respondents are focusing on strengthening business resilience by investing in their people and diversifying their trade models in 2021. UK manufacturers are resilient by nature and, with the right investor and government support, their agility and drive will enable them to build new trade networks and embrace the clean, green digital revolution, ensuring the UK remains a go-to destination for many more years to come. ”