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Brexit – we're out! But what will this mean for UK manufacturing?

The country is waking up this morning to the news that Britain has voted to leave the EU – but how will this effect UK manufacturing?

Brexit52% of the residents of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland have made the decision that we would be better off out of the EU. Is this the right decision? At this stage, no one really knows. But what’s for sure is that for a while there will be a period of uncertainty for UK manufacturing.

Certainly the drop in the value of the pound that has happened over night will help make our goods cheaper overseas and help increase exports – but what will it do to the cost of raw materials, many of which are imported?

Britain sells 50% of its exports to the EU – will these countries continue to buy British-made goods without the tariff-free trade that currently exists?

Most UK manufacturers appeared to want to stay within the EU, according to a pre-Brexit study that was carried out by the EEF. And this sentiment was echoed by research carried out by Make it British a few weeks ago when we surveyed 120 UK textile manufacturers and 54% indicated that they wanted to remain, versus only 20% that thought they would be better off if we left.

UK manufacturers Brexit

Results of a survey of 120 UK textile manufacturers by Make it British

One of the issues influencing the textile industry in wanting to remain is the difficulty in finding skilled workers for the UK clothing industry from without importing staff from countries in Eastern Europe where these skills are still taught and valued. How things will now pan out for this growing part of the UK manufacturing sector now is anyone’s guess.

Another way UK manufacturing is likely to be hit is in no longer receiving the huge amount of funding for research and development that it has benefitted from by being part of the EU. How will this effect the development of innovation by these manufacturers now?

But what won’t be missed following the country’s choice for Brexit is some of the non-sensical red tape that the EU has created.  We were never keen on the plans to change the country of origin labelling so that British-made goods could no longer carry a ‘Made in Britain’ tag, so we can breath a sigh of relief on that one now.

Either way, one thing is for sure – UK manufacturers are likely to see a lot of instability and uncertainty over the next few months and years.

What are your thoughts on today’s news?



  1. John Dean on June 24, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Two comments – Brexit does not mean skilled workers cannot still come to work in the UK from whichever country.

    Why should the textile industry not receive government funding for research and development in the future. The monies the industry received was paid by the UK tax payer in the first place. Remember the UK is a net contributor to the EU

    • on June 24, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Interesting points John
      Many manufacturers have voiced to me the concern they have regarding skills mainly because it might not be so easy to employ people from the EU, or they may no longer come to work here. It;s all speculation of course, and only time will tell.

  2. Jane Rowlston on June 24, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I think people will have to work harder if we are to do well in the future as a country .
    There may be a need for people to take poor paid work so that jobs are filled the NHS may get more funding but will need to pay out more to recruit nurses and and other medical staff.
    I think a lot of people have made a panic vote without thinking about the long term implications and that worries me for the sake of my children and grandchildren’s futures.

  3. R Ryan on June 24, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I think we must seize this opportunity and back what the electorate has decided. We have a very determined, “get up and go” attitude. We are an innovative nation, inventing many of the items that were the backbone of the industrial revolution.

    It is sad that you have said that we have to rely on skilled Eastern European workers to fill the gaps in the job market that we have lost. We must retrain our own workforce to take pride in skilled, manual labour once again. This was the backbone of this country. For far too long as a nation we have thought that we could survive just by sitting in offices all day long staring at computers- this may be “work” in the modern sense, but the skills and pride in making something are often far more beneficial to ones’ happiness and sense of belonging to society in the long run.

    Germany has not lost much of its skilled and even semi-skilled workforce-they can still compete with China in things like pencils/ stationary (look at Faber-Castell & Staedtler)- so it was a misconception that developed nations needed to move to a solely service based economy like the UK unfortunately has.

    Our strong links with the Commonwealth must now be re-ignited, especially given many raw materials for the textiles industry come from the Indian subcontinent. Our reputation for quality over quantity is one that we must emphasise if we are to continue Britain’s manufacturing renaissance.

    • on June 24, 2016 at 11:51 am

      I wholeheartedly agree that it would be great for the British nation to take pride in making things again. I only hope that the younger generation will rise to this challenge, but I fear that many of them are hooked on the sitting in front of computers (or mobile phones for that matter) that you talk of!

      • Boris on June 25, 2016 at 9:16 am

        I speak as the parent of two 18-24 year olds, who are now thoroughly disengaged with this country. One is employed in a manufacturing role and was negotiating with a US company with the prospect of 250 jobs coming to the European union (75 to England) who have now withdrawn and have put their plans ‘on hold’. She is now leaving the manufacturing sector and will be working in services and in Paris.
        I can see an upside to a European exit but I think there is a greater downside to me.
        The other is enjoying the ‘luxury’ of a zero hours contract. He does spend a fair amount of time at a computer screen at the moment looking for other jobs/opportunities.
        Both are individuals who are more skilled than I was at their age and both seem to have less life chances and very little prospect of a meaningful pension.

    • JRichards on October 16, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      When was it that our workforce took pride in skilled manual labour? Not in living memory, that’s for sure. Of course there are some individuals who do take pride in the quality of their work, but they are the exception, not the rule. But there is little tradition of this, and neither government nor industry want to take responsibility for ensuring people are trained properly. What happened to real, seven-year, apprenticeships? The Commonwealth has mostly moved on, and should be manufacturing for itselves, rather than returning to the bad old Empire days when they provided raw materials for the UK industries to make the real profits from the manufactured goods. Don’t expect a manufacturing renaissance to emerge from Brexit – others do it better and cheaper.

  4. John Robertson trading as Veganline.com on June 24, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Textile manufacturers have a reason to be scared. The UK has already negotiated a least-developed-nation tariff alongside Bangladesh, gaining 0% tariff access. This has hurt both sides, with Bangladesh having no pressure to stop being a sweatshop country that has no welfare state, and European countris like the UK having a flood of under-priced competition (if you are a producer) or stuff that clogs up the cupboard and ends-up as landfill (if you are a consumer).

    I hope the UK joins the EFTA and has the use of better negotiators than the ones who agreed 0% tariff access for Bangladesh. I’d like to see a tariff against any country that doesn’t have the costs of a welfare state.

    One separate point. I studied economics in the 80s. I am about the same age as the people who are now senior diplomats and politicians. My economics textbook at the time had nothing at all to say about the problems of globalisation except a paragraph about “infant industries”, and a list of reasons why free trade is good, ready to learn by heart. That could by why the current generation of UK negotiators are just so bad at writing-in claauses against unfair competition.

  5. Staples International on June 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Brexit – Staples International’s stance

    As a company we are 95% UK Export led, Being a member of the EU stifled many attributes of the export process, thus hampering and sometimes forcing SME’s to cut corners while trying to make a profit. The exit from the EU will give ethical and disciplined companies a chance to move forward with confidence, we will create balanced trade deals with relevant countries while bearing in mind their populations, and typical commodities of trade .We need to inwardly invest and support UK initiatives thus creating a landscape for growth. Let’s rally the country together, come up with fresh forward thinking initiatives and capitalise on the removal of the bureaucratic restraints of the EU governing bodies.

  6. Deborah on June 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I am shocked by the decision to exit the EU..
    As a maker of ladies’ hats, I know that, in the UK, we have few courses dedicated to producing high standards of craft work and lack a national appreciation of the value of such courses and the international careers that are possible as a result. Unlike Europe, we don’t promote quality craft work as a a desirable ambition for our young people; an important alternative to academic study.
    I know there are craft courses available, usually to those with lower levels of academic achievement, and, in this way ‘craft’ in undervalued….not seen as ‘craftsmanship’ unless it is at the very highest, most elite and most expensive end of the market!
    Cheap, mass produced imports from countries with lower health and safety regulations form the bulk standard of stock in most shops.

    To me, today, our country seems a little bit smaller and far less outward looking.

  7. Gary Seal on June 24, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Our exit from the EU does create uncertainty within the textile manufacturing fraternity for sure at this present time. However, as our exit strategy from the EU unfolds over the coming months I am confident that in the long term, UK textile manufacturing will once again gain momentum/strength and prosper due to the lessening of EU bureaucratic redtape.

    I am passionate about manufacturing, specifically in the field of textile manufacturing and its processes. Children of today/tomorrow need to become re-engaged, educated and re-enthused as to how important the textile industry is to the UK.
    Do Schools still offer education regarding our history of the UK textile industry and do textile factories currently offer our schools tours of their factories to re-ignite interest and enthusiasm ..?.

    My father had a career in textiles from the age of 26 (to 49) initially overseeing installation of new industrial knitting machines all over the UK and some in the Far East, his hardworking career path lead him to the position of MD of Evershaw Textiles (Ashton Under Lyme) at the young age of 36..!! back in 1980 overseeing 700 employees.
    As a young and inquisitive child I was always asking questions about various textiles and because of my interest my father took me many times his factory and to the Golcar textile museum near Huddersfield which I found fascinating..!!.

    I applaud you Kate hills for founding “Make it British” and promoting of British brands and manufacturing, but we also need to create an education program/module to re-engage our children from a young age to instil interest in British manufacturing for generations to come.

    Gary Seal

    Go-Pod UK

  8. Ruth on June 24, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Brexit is an opportunity to develop manufacturing in Britain once again. Considering textiles specifically I think companies have relied too long on recruiting employees from elsewhere when they could train people from Britain. Having taught textiles students in a university in the north of England there was a dearth of trainee positions and jobs for our graduates. The quality of our young designers is excellent and it is a shame that employers cannot appreciate that. Who knows what innovations young minds could achieve if unleashed?

    Similarly with regard to the NHS colleagues from Health departments reported large numbers of applications for which there were insufficient places. Students want to enter health related professions but the government puts insufficient funding into training.

    We need to rethink where we go now and grasp the opportunities for new relationships that Brexit offers.

  9. Neil Oakley on June 24, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I voted to Leave the EU a position I have held for a long time. The benefits I think for the manufacturing industry is that red tape can be cut, we can now put Made In Britain on goods (a disgusting & typical piece of EU meddling). We also can look towards our own designers for ideas to be manufactured & look to train both younger people in crafts if they choose & anyone who is retired but still wants to be active

  10. […] To that end, here is a great website for perusing British brands and buying British products and it even includes a pretty active blog on the subject including today’s very interesting post on Brexit. […]

  11. Buy British! – Patchen Real Estate on June 25, 2016 at 6:37 am

    […] To that end, here is a great website for perusing British brands and buying British products and it even includes a pretty active blog on the subject including today’s very interesting post on Brexit. […]

  12. Richard Tollard on June 25, 2016 at 8:37 am

    I am an American mutt (German, English and Swedish) and I apologize in advance for speaking out of place on such a topic, but regardless of what the media (or bankers) may tell you, there exists an unwavering amount of support for your nation here across the pond.

    That being said, I have always made a sizable effort to purchase items that are produced in my country. If the item I seek is not manufactured in the US, I try (very hard) to make sure it is made by a person earning a livable wage in a European country. For what it is worth, I will be now be limiting my selection to the US and the UK. God Bless.

    Also, next week, my family and I will be raising cans of Boddington to both of our nations’ independence.

    • Mike Sommer on June 26, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      Richard, I’m with you. The support here, at least in my house, is high. If fact, I was just shopping on Amazon and am ordering a product that I wanted only to find it is made in the UK. Bonus.

      Made in USA is sometimes a huge challenge and I’ll be more cognizant of checking out Made in UK as well.

      Peace and Prosperity to you all.

      • Mike on June 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm

        Thank you both for your support.

  13. Clive Miller on June 26, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    I’ve run my small business for 25-years I work in construction everything has been against me over this time. There’s not been a lot of construction happening but where it has it’s been flooded by cheap overseas labour. Foreign workmen are doing my work for £100/day I’m skilled so are my employees. We can’t work for £100/day pay our mortgage and our overheads it just doesn’t work. I have public liability and other insurance I follow the law I pay my taxes I need to earn £300/week to break even. I do not share my house with 12 other workmen sharing the food and the rent. I’m glad I’m out of the EU I will be doing my best to back the UK economy by using British made materials where possible. I will be trying to source British made products at work and at home. If the Mafia that is the State of the EU want to make it hard for us its up to us to return the compliment they’ll see sense eventually. Perhaps one day if they ever get it right British workers will be working in Bulgaria and Romania for ten times more than they can earn at home!

  14. Kenneth Craig. on June 27, 2016 at 9:22 am

    We have taken the first step to what we once were, & should be, an independent sovereign state, with a government voted in by British people, for the British people.
    We made massive trading & contribution losses to a failing EU that i think will eventually collapse.
    People dont seem to read the international trade figures, for the last consecutive 10 months or so, our trade with the rest of the world(from which we made a profit) has exceeded trade with the EU.
    Question for Europhiles, why was it ever necessary to surrender sovereignty, be governed by a foreign power & be flooded with immigrants, in order just to trade? Ridiculous!!
    The EU is a big step forward for globalists, who want a one world government & currency, meaning all nations must surrender, by force if necessary & be subdued. This remains their objective.

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