Britain’s manufacturers have responded to the prime minister’s Brexit deal with deep misgivings in the run-up to the vote in parliament on Saturday.
The lobby group for the engineering and manufacturing industries, Make UK, said though it was relieved at the possibility of leaving the EU with a deal, the new agreement failed in several important ways to overcome the concerns of its members, not least the transition deal, which stretches to just 14 months, and the lack of commitments to maintaining the closest possible trading relationship with the EU.The warning follows a letter this week from industry chiefs to the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, warning him the deal posed a “serious risk to manufacturing competitiveness”.
Clearly distressed by the government’s push for a harder Brexit than was agreed by Theresa May, chief executives from the aerospace, automotive, food and drink, chemicals, and pharmaceutical sectors, said their main concern was being excluded from EU regulatory institutions – a move that would diminish their influence and increase their costs.
Make UK went further, accusing the government of four strategic errors that should be rectified if it wanted industry to thrive, including an extension to the transition period, a commitment to regulatory alignment and a loosening of planned migration controls.
Manufacturers fear Boris Johnson’s deal will hit their profits directly and indirectly as the economy weakens over time, a trend outlined by the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) in its assessment last year of rival Brexit scenarios.