The UK could cement its position as a manufacturing powerhouse if the government commits to a comprehensive industrial strategy, says manufacturers’ organisation EEF.
In its recently published manifesto Making The Future, Making Britain Great, EEF calls on the next government to build on the country’s manufacturing success and maintain current momentum, in light of the recent figures showing that manufacturing activity recently rose to its fastest pace in three years.
The incumbent government should outline a strategy that supports innovation and growth – especially during the country’s exit from the European Union – and commit to a number of key aims, the organisation states, including:
- Plans for economic growth and social wellbeing
- An ambitious Brexit deal with benefits and seamless trading with the EU
- A new immigration system giving employers work permit management access
- Innovation, research and development boosts and incentives
- Commitment to reducing regulatory costs for businesses
Brave in the face of Brexit
Chief executive officer at EEF Terry Scuoler said that government commitment to a comprehensive industrial strategy will give businesses confidence during the uncertain and complex time ahead.
He called on ministers to prioritise manufacturing industry as the heart of a vision for a “strong and successful economic plan for the UK”.
The first priority for the next government should be brokering a deal that is beneficial for both the UK and the EU; failure to agree a deal “to satisfy a hard-line political ideology” is not an affordable option, he said.
“Manufacturing firms up and down the country represent the best of British business and they need to feel certain that government is backing them in the face of the complex process of leaving the EU,” Mr Scuoler added.
An ambitious industrial strategy should have a long-term focus and help strengthen the very fundamentals of the economy, such as preparing the next generation of workers with the necessary skills, the manufacturing expert suggested.
This would involve revolutionising the education system by recruiting the very best science and maths teachers in underperforming schools to increase the study of STEM subjects. It would also entail a drive to ensure technical and vocational training is recognised as equal to academic achievement.
By establishing and executing a comprehensive industrial strategy, the incoming government will be able to create a talent pipeline and deliver a world-class workforce with the necessary skills to support the UK as a manufacturing powerhouse, Mr Scuoler said.
Although manufacturing activity is up, productivity continues to be a UK issue, the manifesto states, with countries like France and Germany way ahead in the league tables.
Tackling this issue is part of the plan outlined in the government green paper Building our Industrial Strategy and is also a key element of the EEF manifesto.
To begin with, the industry calls for more investment to create a more competitive business environment, including a reform on the capital allowance regime and removal of business rates on plant and machinery, while a renewed drive on deregulation and commitment to reducing the associated costs of regulation should also be a priority.
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