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What does Brexit mean for the manufacturing industry?

What does Brexit mean for the manufacturing industry?

KPMG LLP

3 min read Partner content

Stephen Cooper, head of Industrial Manufacturing at KPMG UK comments on the implications of the EU referendum results.


The possibility that many manufacturers feared has come true. So what next for manufacturing businesses in dealing with the manifold implications of the exit vote? Just picking up on three areas: Given the significance of trade with Europe and trade agreements negotiated through the EU, there are significant implications for the supply chain, such as the application of tariffs. Ensuring a full understanding of the supply chain past Tier 1 suppliers and beyond is vital to assess potential actions required. Our recent report on the sector revealed that just 13% of global respondents have “complete” visibility past their Tier 1 suppliers and into their Tier 2 so this may not be as straightforward as some might hope. 

On the jobs front, there are very real implications to the access to engineering talent. Manufacturers will need to consider their strategy. Firstly in retaining their non-UK workforce, secondly in attracting non-UK based expertise and thirdly, more long term and one for the government to support, in developing talent on a much greater scale than they do currently.

Investment decisions, both FDI and of UK origin, whether put on hold waiting for this vote or in the ‘normal’ course of business, will need to be reappraised. Whether manufacturers will choose to locate or develop their operations in the UK, with the possibility of tariffs in place, remains to be seen and will likely be dependent on the upcoming negotiations with Europe.  Once again Government action will be important to help ensure we remain an attractive location to invest both in manufacturing and other key contributors such as science and technology.

We should not lose sight of the fact that this result can also lead to opportunities for manufacturers; a drop in the value of sterling could make the UK a magnet for trade, and the need to reshape trade policy may result in quicker decision making, and reduced red tape.

Of course we are only day one after the vote and the full implications will only become clearer with the passage of time – a considered approach to the emerging position is required rather any ‘knee jerk reaction’. Organisations will need to consider the tactical, short-term implications, particularly relating to market volatility and the impact on trading. However, the importance of maintaining a focus on the longer-term planning whilst in the midst of a tactical response is paramount.

Unbiased information is available on the KPMG EU Referendum web portal here:  www.kpmg.com/uk/euref

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