Tory leadership rivals accused of risking manufacturing jobs with no-deal Brexit 'lunacy'

Posted On: 
3rd June 2019

Conservative leadership candidates have been warned that they are already putting Britain's manufacturing jobs at risk by talking up the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

The Make UK data flagged a slowdown in UK manufacturing exports.
Credit: 
PA

Stephen Phipson, head of manufacturing umbrella group Make UK, accused Tory leadership hopefuls of putting "party ideology" before the economy as his organisation revealed new data showing a plunge in export orders.

Conservative leadership candidates including Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, Sajid Javid and Andrea Leadsom have all made clear that they would be willing to take Britain out of the European Union without a deal in October.

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But Mr Phipson said it would be "the height of economic lunacy to take the UK out of the EU with no deal in place".

And he warned: "The race to the bottom in the interests of party ideology has to stop otherwise there will be a heavy price to pay."

According to Make UK, which surveyed 350 firms, manufacturing will grow by just 0.2% in 2019, and 0.8% in 2020.

Export orders also fell to their lowest level since 2016 in the second quarter of the year, the organisation said.

Mr Phipson told the Financial Times: "There is a link between people standing up and saying that no deal is acceptable and people losing their jobs as a direct result. It’s not theoretical, hypothetical scaremongering.

“We are having lots of company having severe trouble with their order books, putting plans on hold, not doing pay rises, and people losing their jobs."

He added: "I would like to see [politicians] stand up and justify this to the families that are losing their jobs now, just for the sake of their political manoeuvring.”

Sajid Javid this weekend became the latest Tory leadership contender to say he would be willing to countenance a no-deal Brexit if chosen as Theresa May's successor.

The Home Secretary vowed to hold an "emergency Budget" to show the EU that Britain was "not afraid of walking out" without a deal.

Meanwhile Esther McVey, who has promised to actively pursue a no-deal outcome, on Sunday night pounced on comments by US President Donald Trump that Britain should be willing to "walk away" from the EU without an agreement.

She said: "I’ve ruled out a further extension and said that we should walk away with a clean Brexit on 31st October, keeping billions of pounds of our taxpayers’ money.

"The fact that the US President is so keen to do a trade deal with us - something I would make an immediate priority - shows we have a more prosperous future outside of the EU and lots of European companies would seek to relocate to the UK to take advantage of such a deal."

But Mr Phipson warned: "Earlier this year there was clear evidence that industry was on steroids as companies stockpiled.

"Underneath, however, there is now growing evidence of European companies abandoning UK supply chains, whilst Asian customers baulk at the unknown of what may exist as the UK leaves trade agreements which operate under EU rules."