UK manufacturers call for help as Brexit prompts export drop

Thu 19 Mar 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

manufacturing exports

UK manufacturing exports slumped to their lowest level in three years before the coronavirus crisis hit the UK, a survey has shown.

Make UK, the trade body for manufacturers, reports that export orders for British manufacturers have fallen for the first time since 2016, the year of the Brexit vote.

In the Q1 Manufacturing Outlook survey published by Make UK and business advisory firm BDO LLP this week, Make UK members report that since the UK left the EU on January 31, EU customers have begun turning away from British businesses.

Survey key findings

  • Output fell sharply on back of weak orders and as Autumn stockpiles wound down
  • Domestic orders improved but are still negative in the worst run since 2015
  • Export orders turn negative for first time since Q4 2016
  • Evidence that EU customer sentiment is turning away from the UK
  • Electronics turns negative for first time since 2015 as access to semi-conductors and other components dry up 
  • Northern Ireland least optimistic area of the UK
  • Manufacturing forecast to contract in 2020 by -2.1%

(Source: Make UK)

The survey was conducted before the coronavirus hit the UK.

'Shocking' drop in exports

Seamus Nevin, chief economist at Make UK, said: “Even before the current situation the shocking drop in exports could not have come at a worse time ahead of potentially difficult trade talks where the clock is running down fast.”

Make UK is calling on the government to hep manufacturers mitigate the impact of coronavirus on the sector.

According to the Q1 survey, sectors such as steel remained the weakest, but previously healthy areas such as electronics experienced orders turning negative for the first time since 2015.

Tom Lawton, head of manufacturing at BDO, said: “Businesses should be preparing themselves for more volatility this year”.