Chief Executive of the Chemical Industries Association
The UK economy has continued to grow, primed by a surge in manufacturing production which recently saw its biggest quarterly gain in six years.
As Leader of the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), the body representing the UK’s biggest manufacturing exporter which contributes £15bn of value to the country every year, economic performance like this fills me with great pride and solidifies the importance of manufacturing to the ongoing success of the UK economy.
Following the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, we have entered into a period of uncertainty and what could be significant economic adjustment. Positive recent economic results can no longer be automatically considered indicative of future growth and signs of weaker demand and flagging confidence must be recognised.
At the same time we also need to be positive about the potential prospects and performance that the UK could now achieve. The fall in the value of the pound has been a welcome bonus for manufacturing exporters. It is important that attention now turns to going the extra mile to ensure the concerns of the industry are clearly presented to government and then get acted on. These include the desire to remain in the single market, along with the need to maintain access to skilled employees and competitively-priced energy.
The chemical and pharmaceutical industries, in consensus with most other UK manufacturing industries, welcomed new Prime Minister Theresa May’s restructure of Government, especially the creation of the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under Secretary of State, Greg Clark. Inclusion of industrial strategy is a much welcomed signal to businesses planning for the future and the merger of business with energy should ensure competitiveness is more at the heart of all policy developments.
Additionally, the new Department for International Trade is likely to prove vital to developing new trade agreements across the globe. It is, I believe, now the responsibility of UK manufacturers to carefully look out and seize opportunities arising from Brexit to secure a globally-competitive UK industry through a new relationship with the EU and the rest of the world.
I hope the industry will, in true British fashion, be innovative in its approach to the possibilities available.