Black Country business leaders call for 'strong, decisive decisions 'on trade from Government
The head of the Black Country's biggest business organisation is calling for "strong, decisive decisions" from the Government to tackle uncertainty over trade policy.
It comes as wrangling continues over the future of UK trade with Europe after Brexit and the US imposes steel and aluminium tariffs. At the same time new figures show the UK's trade deficit with the rest of the world is growing and industrial output weakening.
Corin Crane, chief executive the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “Trade has again been headline news in recent weeks. With the announcement from the US government that EU countries would not be exempt from steel and aluminium tariffs and continued confusion over the UK’s future customs arrangement with the EU.
“Uncertainty around future trade policy and trading relationships risks undermining the fantastic work that Black Country businesses do. More than ever, Black Country and UK businesses require strong, decisive decisions from policy-makers in government.
“As Europe Direct Information Centre (EDIC) for the Black Country, we have access to a range of materials and resources that businesses may find useful on issues such as trade and customs arrangements, EU law and regulatory frameworks. Currently housed in the Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre, we will be taking our mobile walk-in centre across the Black Country, engaging with business and citizens, answering questions over the most pressing Brexit-related issues.”
Meanwhile, the latest PMI report shows a general slowdown in growth for the UK's manufacturing sector, despite a slight rise in May. Mr Crane said: “UK manufacturers are facing rising cost inflation and supply-chain pressures. Together with the potential threat to supply chains brought about by Brexit and well publicised issues around public procurement, there are several pressing issues facing manufacturers. However, a PMI of over 50 does signal a healthy manufacturing sector for the UK, albeit with some looming constraints. A healthy manufacturing sector is crucial for the Black Country, so it is imperative that these issues are understood and mitigated against by top level policy-makers.”
The Chamber is currently running a campaign to promote manufacturing in the Black Country, backed by Wolverhampton law firm FBC Manby Bowdler which works with many local companies. FBC's sales director, Neil Lloyd, said: "A slight rise in PMI for May is welcome following the previous few months of decline. The underlying detail though is concerning, especially the slowdown in sales, leading to the largest amount of unsold stock since the survey began.
“Cost inflation, driven in part by higher oil prices and supply chain pressures are beginning to bite. That said, with over half those surveyed having a positive outlook for the next 12 months, export markets growing and investment continuing apace it’s not all doom and gloom. This is reflected in the conversations I have with our clients who on the whole are enjoying the positivity surrounding UK manufacturing at present.”