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The UK should use its post-Brexit position to reduce reliance on overseas manufacturers and create domestic supply chains based on cutting-edge industries that create new export opportunities.

The Covid Recovery Commission, headed by Tesco chairman John Allan, is a commission of 10 powerful UK executives from firms including Vodafone, Astra Zeneca, Shell and Admiral Insurance. It has set out a plan for a post-pandemic economic recovery.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Allan said strengthening domestic supply chains would re-stimulate manufacturing for the domestic market – and potentially service export markets.

'Turn back the clock'

“It may sound like turning the clock back, but it is necessary,” Allan said. “There are great advantages if you have short domestic supply chains - you can be much more flexible and respond more quickly to changes in demand.”

The BBC reports the Commission’s key recommendations as:

  • Creating at least one new globally competitive industry cluster in every part of the UK by 2030
  • Harnessing government procurement to develop a 'Great British Supply Chain'
  • A ‘Help to Train’ scheme to assist in halving the projected skills gap by 2030, including introducing a Lifelong Learning Account for people from the age of 25 to access £10,000 to spend on upskilling and retraining
  • A 15-year National Deal for Net Zero homes to decarbonise housing stock and make every social home in the UK as energy efficient as possible by 2030
  • The creation of a new Community Infrastructure Endowment Fund to match-fund business investment and the introduction of a Wellbeing at Work Guarantee

Look to India, away from China

Meanwhile Catherine McBride, economist at the Centre for Brexit Policy, said that Britain should reassess its reliance on China and look towards India and other nations for manufacturing needs.

McBride is a senior fellow at Brexit think tank and told the Daily Express that “India has the ability to replace a lot of the manufacturing that we are presently getting from China, especially in pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.”

She also insisted the UK should not focus on Europe going forward and claimed Europe is “yesterday’s news”.

According to government figures, the EU accounted for 42% of UK exports of goods and services and 50% of imports in 2020. As reported in IOE&IT Daily Bulletin, the UK is currently attempting to deepen trade ties with India, which received £5.5bn of UK exports in 2018 according to ONS figures.

Top UK imports in 2020

The Department for International Trade reported the UK’s top goods imports for 2020 were:

Cars - £26.5bn

Medicine and pharmaceuticals - £22bn

Clothing - £20.5bn

Telecoms - £18.4bn

Office machinery - £14.2bn