Britain’s manufacturers are warning the government that walking away from the EU with no deal in place is not an option and will leave business on a cliff edge of uncertainty that will damage jobs and investment.
The Brexit warning will be made by EEF chair, Dame Judith Hackitt CBE, at the National Manufacturing Dinner in London this evening (February 22).
She will tell guests that: “Uncertainty and confusion will result in business being left on a cliff edge. While the Prime Minister has warned of walking away and, that no deal is preferable to a bad deal, that is not an option that business can accept, because no deal means prolonged uncertainty and confusion.”
“We simply have to avoid the UK departing in haste if we want to avoid spending the next 30 years repenting.
“What we must have is a deal that ensures our economy continues to thrive and is not sacrificed on the altar of satisfying assumed expectations in a referendum vote. That means a settlement that allows us to continue investing and creating the high-value jobs our economy will need in the future.”
Minimising Brexit uncertainty
Dame Judith will add that the UK is going to have a new relationship with the EU and looking back is not an option: “A new relationship with the European Union is a given. The decision to leave has been taken as a result of a democratic process and we must now seize this as an opportunity.
“Wishing it were different is in nobody’s best interests. We must make it work and minimise uncertainty for everyone, especially for business and industry who will be the driving forces behind creating a new and prosperous UK economy.”
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As such, Dame Judith will also urge the government to adopt a pragmatic approach and call for an orderly transition period of at least five years which will allow business time to adjust during the multitude of complex issues which have to be worked through.
Such a deal must not favour one sector of the economy over another, she will highlight.
She will also call for any deal to ensure it, “Allows the UK and European Union to continue trading in as open a way as possible with the UK accessing as much of the Single Market and Customs Union as possible.”
Immigration and pay
On immigration, Dame Judith will also urge the government to take the lead on making the positive case to the British public that: “In recognising the concerns over immigration and the desire for tighter borders, industry does still need access to the skills which EU workers bring, including high-quality skills, all of which are important in supporting our economy and public services.”
Adding: “Our sector must be renowned for high-value, high-skill employment. We must train our own UK workforce while also seeking skills from overseas where needed and promoting our own home-grown skilled workforce on a global stage.”
Dame Judith will also urge business to assume its responsibility in addressing the regional and social inequalities across the UK, the key role companies have in supporting local communities and, the increasing resentment towards the growing pay divide.
She will note: “Businesses have a key role in societies and in supporting local communities. We have a key role in ensuring that society sees business as a force for good, for creating wealth that pays for pensions and the vital services we need.
“There is an underlying resentment towards the growing divide between pay in the boardroom and elsewhere. While we may shrug that off as a problem for other sectors, not ours, as manufacturing employers we must respond to these concerns by adopting pay practices which are demonstrably fair across the company and reflect performance.”