Manufacturers predict growth in 2017 despite Brexit disruption

Over two thirds of manufacturing firms expect to grow in 2017 despite the impact of Brexit, according to the findings of the annual Business Census 2017 report.

The survey of 1,300 firms, carried out by Company Check during November and December, found that that 70 per cent of companies are predicting an increase in turnover over the next 12 months.

When questioned about Brexit, more than a third (34 per cent) of manufacturers said the vote to leave had already had a negative impact on their business. Just over a fifth (22 per cent) of manufacturing firms said the impact so far had been positive, while 42 per cent said there had been no change. Across all UK sectors, 30 per cent said Brexit had been negative, 15 per cent said it had been positive and 55 per cent said no change.

Company Check’s Katie Deverill said: “Brexit may have already had a chilling effect on future business growth in some places, but business leaders still appear confident individually about their prospects for the year ahead.”

Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of manufacturers thought local government was doing a good job to support business growth, which is said to be in line with the 30 per cent nationally who felt the same; down 10 per cent in a year.

“There’s also high levels of disaffection with local authorities when it comes to them supporting and nurturing business growth,” said Deverill. “The powers that be should take note of these figures and recognise that something in the current system just isn’t working.”

The Business Census questioned people working across the UK. Nationally, concerns about political events almost doubled compared to 2016, with it being named the biggest challenge ahead by a third of respondents, an increase of 90 per cent on the year before.

For manufacturing that figure was slightly lower than average (28 per cent), with the economy topping the list instead at 33 per cent. This could be reflective of the fact that the economy was the biggest challenge for manufacturers in 2016 too. More than a quarter of firms (28 per cent) said they feared economic decline next year, in line with the UK average.

Martin Hurworth, managing director of British manufacturing business Harvey Water Softeners, said: "The manufacturing industry has experienced some challenges, but the latest GDP figures are proof that we are growing through uncertainty. In a post-Brexit economy, manufacturing in the UK will be more important than ever. We need bold action and certainty to give companies a reason to stay here and invest.

"The results of the Business Census show that the economy is still a concern in our industry and we recognise there are some potentially challenging times ahead. But we're confident in our future as a British family business and are positioned for growth, with plans to invest significantly in the local area and R&D."