The forthcoming EU referendum is, for a lot us, about a great many things. It’s become a lightning rod for dissatisfaction with economic performance, immigration, sovereignty issues and countless other topics which have all spilled over during this protracted debate period. We’ve seen countless issues kicked around by both sides of the debate, from housing to benefits, via the economy and human rights. One issue that’s cropped up persistently is the UK’s manufacturing industry, and what a British exit from the EU might do to the already flagging industry. Naturally, both sides of the argument are making very different claims on the subject. So, in this article, we’ll look at some of the claims each side are making and leave the decisions up to you.
What do the Remain camp say?
The remain camp are keep to draw attention to the fact that though British manufacturing has been going through some tough times recently, it still employs 2.6 million people in the UK, and accounts for 44p in every £1 worth of UK exports. They also, inevitably, tie the British manufacturing industry into our membership of Europe.
An estimated 185,000 EU nationals work within the UK manufacturing sector and according to the EEF, Britain sells half of its exports to the EU. Add that to the £1.6 billion the industry receives from the EU in innovation funding, it begins to make a compelling case for the UK’s membership of the EU.
Indeed, the British Chambers of Commerce study has found that the majority of UK businesses back remaining in the EU, which echoes a number of other studies which have found that on the whole, business of all stripes see membership of the EU as important to the future of their business.
Key to this belief is the assertion from the Remain camp that Britain’s economy would take a hit in the short and medium term from choosing to leave, and that trade agreements could take an extended period to reach. If no free trade agreements can be met, then British products could be hit with an export levy, which would make our already expensive luxury goods even more costly, potentially shrinking the sector and severely damaging jobs and profits.
What about the Leave side?
Business for Britain, which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU, argues that manufacturers would be better off for getting out of the European Union. They suggest that because the EU has failed to strike free trade agreements with countries like China and India, UK manufacturing has been hurt. They say that the UK could make these deals if we were to strike it out alone.
They also suggest that the EU’s clean energy policies have meant higher energy prices in the UK which have crippled some of our traditional manufacturing businesses like steel.
An exit of Europe has been backed by some big names in UK industry like James Dyson, who dismissed fears surrounding trade as “absolute cobblers”. He’s backed by many small businesses who say that EU regulations have made it difficult to trade with nations who don’t have trade agreements in place.
Their principle argument appears to be that because the EU exports more to us than we export to it, it would be in the interests of the EU to strike a trade deal quickly.