All of British business now needs to turn Brexit to our collective national advantage

All of British business now needs to turn Brexit to our collective national advantage

According to astrology, 2018 heralds the Year of the Dog – a fortuitous alignment of planets for our British Bulldog and its canine attributes of power, stamina and persistence to boost our Brexit negotiations.

At the coalface of British manufacturing in Derbyshire – and quite literally given the region’s mining history – our family business, David Nieper, has been able to file record profits for last year following a surge in sales, a more competitive pound and enhanced appetite for ‘British-designed and British-made’ following the Brexit referendum.

Financial performance has been the strongest in the company’s history, allowing us to make further investment to improve productivity and expand production space to help meet record demand.

Every entrepreneur knows that however dark the cloud, there’s always a silver lining – and the Brexit opportunity is not only knocking, but pounding upon the door so here’s to making Brexit a resounding success from the front line in British business.

The last 18 months have afforded the staff at our company an incredible insight into British politics and democracy. We’ve been privileged to feature more than 200 times in the press relating to Brexit, including televised visits at our factory from prominent politicians including Alan Johnson, Gisela Stuart, Anna Soubry and Boris Johnson variously representing Labour, Conservative, Remain and Leave.

As it turned out, our company was on the right side of the argument and the right side of history; but now we have a responsibility to make Brexit work for all of us and for British business to turn it to our advantage for British skills, British productivity and the British economy.   

The Government has a golden opportunity to use Brexit as a catalyst to rebalance our economy. Our country has been strangled by massive debt, ever increasing with huge annual deficits, neither of which is ever likely to be resolved by austerity alone.

The Brexit opportunity is to grow value-added manufacturing and exports while reducing our overweighting towards services.  To maintain our living standards in a global market, we need a high-skill, high ‘value-added’ and high-wage economy.  

Manufacturing is critical in this respect and in Britain we’ve allowed manufacturing to fall to around 11% of our GDP – around half that of Germany’s 22% – against 18% in Switzerland, a country synonymous with banking and services.  These countries enjoy a surplus rather than a deficit and, wartime excepted, Britain has been in the same luxury position since the industrial revolution – until now.  

Losing so much of our manufacturing sector has lost our skill base and hollowed out our communities; it’s wiped out our balance of foreign payments and our ability as a country to make ends meet.  

Brexit offers Britain the opportunity and the freedom to make a step change to correct this. The Government has three strong levers including productivity, skills and a competitive currency at its disposal, all of which would help to allow the private sector to rebalance the economy, start to recover social mobility and help the Prime Minister deliver her promise to look after the ‘just about managing’.

Every problem presents an opportunity so let’s have our glasses half full and not half empty.  Let’s start making things in Britain again, let’s make the best of our once in a generation opportunity and let’s start now. Carpe Diem.