Anna Soubry MP, Minister of State for Small Business, Industry & Enterprise, has addressed around 100 North East manufacturers at an event in Newcastle to help allay their post-Brexit fears.
The minister was speaking at the second annual North East Manufacturing Dinner, organised by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, which brings together leading manufacturers, engineers and senior business people from across the region.
Addressing the audience, Ms Soubry said: “These are undoubtedly difficult and uncertain times, but what's vital now is that we all - people, government and business - come together to support British industry. That's one of the reasons I wanted to come to the North East, which is home to so many manufacturing companies, not least in the automotive sector.
“Britain remains open for business and our advanced manufacturing remains some of the very best in the world.”
Also speaking at the event, Terry Scuoler, CEO of EEF, said that many manufacturers would be disappointed at the referendum outcome, but: “It must be respected and we all now need to move forward to secure Britain’s industrial future and our place in the world,” he emphasised.
He pointed out that Britain was starting from a position of strength, being the fifth largest economy and the 10th largest manufacturing country in the world, and enjoying low unemployment, low inflation, a flexible labour market and growing exports. But he cautioned that the decision to Brexit would bring challenges, saying: “We have to negotiate a new arrangement and accommodation with the EU and it would be foolish to underestimate the difficulty and complexity of that task.”
Mr Scuoler also said that EEF had given its clear backing to the Government to wait until the UK has a clear and defined negotiating position before triggering Article 50. He said that the skills shortage affecting the sector was such that the Government needed to ensure that the migration of workers into the UK is not impaired now or in any future negotiations.
He added: “Reassuring EU migrant workers already living and working in the UK that they can remain will, of course, also be critical. The link with skills to innovation, competitiveness and export potential is clear and must be reflected in any settlement.”
Following the referendum outcome, EEF has been seeking early assurances about the Government’s commitment to securing access to the single market and protecting the UK’s trading relationships. It is also calling on the Government to send a clear ‘business as usual’ message to Europe and the rest of the world, urging ministers to avoid allowing business and the UK to fall into limbo by getting on with important investment decisions.