Survey suggests South West manufacturers will vote to REMAIN

By Anita Jaynes on June 17, 2016

Small and medium sized manufacturers across the South West will vote to remain in the EU referendum on the June 23, according to a survey published this week.

57% of senior leaders within the firms surveyed, said that they would vote ‘remain’, a clear majority when compared with just 27% planning to vote for Brexit. However, there were still some undecided voters, with 16% of bosses saying that they had yet to make up their minds.

The survey, conducted at the end of last month by South West manufacturing consultants, SWMAS, is clear evidence that in the South West, small business leaders favour the status quo. The survey collected the views of 134 manufacturers and is the largest of its kind in the region.

When asked what risks a Brexit vote presented, business leaders pointed to volatile exchange rates, economic uncertainty, potential trade barriers and increased material and labour costs. Another common theme was that businesses just don’t know enough to be able to make a decision.

Cressida Granger, the managing director of Bournemouth-based Mathmos, the inventors of the original lava lamp, said that “over half our turnover is online directly into continental Europe, so trade barriers will affect us. Regulatory change in our industry means it is also important for our trade bodies to be round the table in EU negotiations.”

Many businesses, including some of those who will vote to remain, drew attention to some of the risks of staying in the EU. Comments frequently reflected concerns around red-tape, bureaucracy, continued political integration and the loss of trade opportunities.

An anonymous leave voter, the managing director of a furniture firm, stated that a strong pound, coupled with cheap Eastern European imports from countries with low labour costs, was not only bad for business, but also removed any incentive to train UK staff.

When asked for his view on the risks of a remain vote, George Hamilton, Managing Director of the Delabole Slate Company in Cornwall, pointed to “continued stagnation and cost with no benefit.” He went on to say that there were also significant risks including apathy in the event of a remain vote and the failure to negotiate a good deal for the UK in the event of a Brexit.

Simon Howes the managing director of SWMAS said that they had “seen a general concern over a reduction in business following a potential Brexit. Despite this, however, 69% of firms surveyed still expected sales turnover to grow in the next 6 months, with 57% expecting to recruit.”

He added that, whatever the outcome of the referendum result, “there is certainly room for growth for manufacturers that continue to implement productivity improvements and update their business strategies, to take account of external events. There is also a great deal of excitement about developments such as the Hinkley Point C project, which present real growth opportunities for our region.”

He continued, “Many will have heard of the demise of the national Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), which we are proud to have delivered for the past 14 years. I’m delighted to say that SWMAS is very much still here, continuing to provide hands-on support to manufacturers across the South West through our team of local Manufacturing Specialists.’’

For further information on SWMAS, call 0845 608 3838, email info@swmas.co.uk, visit www.swmas.co.uk or follow @swmas on Twitter.

Pictured above: Simon Howes the managing director of SWMAS