Does UK manufacturing want another referendum?

Posted on 17 Jan 2019 by Maddy White

Another referendum, a new deal negotiated with the EU, another attempt at getting the rejected Brexit deal passed through parliament or a no deal? We asked British manufacturers what they want to happen.

Brexit will not affect GDPR as it will apply directly in the UK before we leave the EU - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
In June it will be three years since the EU referendum vote took place – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

In June it will be three years since the EU referendum vote took place, Britain is running out of time to secure a deal.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected on Tuesday in a historic manner. This resulted in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calling for a vote of no confidence in the government last night, which he lost. May now has only three days to present other options to MPs.

The possible next steps that could be taken include:

  • A no deal as the default option if nothing else is agreed
  • A second attempt at getting the current rejected deal through parliament
  • Major renegotiation with the EU and a new deal 
  • Another referendum to take place

Many have called a no deal Brexit scenario as simply not an option, as the impacts to the UK economy, business and trade would be severe. 

“Every business will feel no deal is hurtling closer. A new plan is needed immediately. This is now a time for our politicians to make history as leaders. All MPs need to reflect on the need for compromise and to act at speed to protect the UK’s economy,” Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general commented.

In the event of a no deal Brexit, Britain would leave without a withdrawal agreement and have to begin trading with the EU on the basis of World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations.

But what does UK manufacturing want?

‘Take the deal, or remain’

Nimisha Raja, founder of Nim’s Fruit Crisps, commented: “This has gone beyond a farce and I don’t believe I have heard from one single politician in the past few weeks who engenders confidence within the government.

“Given the Parliament vote and narrow no confidence result, it is clear that the country and parliament are divided and, given no one had an idea what Brexit would really mean, we should absolutely have another referendum. The question should then be…take the deal, or remain.”

‘I’d like to see another referendum’

Supply Chain Logistics Global Trade Shipping Export Exporting - Stock referendum
The continued uncertainty means that UK trade hangs in the balance.

“I’d like to see another referendum. However, this time, I’d like the debate to be based on facts as opposed to fantasy or ‘Project Fear.’ If we manage to have a debate based on facts and, the British population still vote to leave, then all that remains is to cut the best possible deal. Leaving without a deal, will obviously cost UK jobs – there’s no getting away from that,” Richard Bunce, MD of Mec Com, a specialist in sheet metal fabrication and electromechanical assembly and testing said to TM.

‘Negotiate a better deal’

Tony Hague, CEO at PP Control & Automation, said: “The next step for me would be to negotiate a better deal than the one we currently have. I genuinely believe the EU has more to give, but are in a strong enough position to avoid having to show their true hand yet.”

Steve Elliott, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Association, said: “What we now need, and we have needed from the very start, is for MP’s of all parties to work together on behalf of the country to identify common ground and the basis of ‘plan B’ so that when the Prime Minister reports on Monday we can be confident there will be a majority view on securing a deal. The need for a negotiated deal gets more urgent by the day – as does the need to avoid a ‘no deal’ outcome”.

Mark Street-Docherty, CEO at gene-testing manufacturer, Elucigene Diagnostics, said to TM: “Like many British businesses, we’d have preferred not to leave the EU. But we have come to accept the outcome of the referendum. The most important thing for all companies – but especially those flying the flag for UK export – is to have clarity and certainty. Re-running the referendum would provide neither.”

He added: “If there is a delay to Article 50, then the government must use the time productively, and not get bogged down in political debate and procrastination.”

‘Any path is better than the one we currently have’

“The Brexit deal was poor and no help to anyone,” says Chris Greenough from Salop Design & Engineering.  He continued: “The PM was always going to lose the vote, and she did in dramatic fashion. What we didn’t need was then the call for a vote of no confidence – we do not need even more change at this critical time.

“What business needs is clarity, certainty and a route forward. Any path is better than the one we currently have or indeed don’t have…”

‘We are calling for an extension to Article 50’

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief executive, Ian Wright CBE said: “We are calling for an extension to Article 50 in order for parliament to decide what our next steps are; whether that is a new deal, a referendum or an orderly exit from the EU without a deal at a later date.”