Industry figures ease post-Brexit fears

Jason Ford - News Editor, The EngineerJason Ford, news editor

The In/Out Referendum on Britain’s EU membership was always going to be divisive regardless of the outcome.

This weekend just gone, thousands from the pro-EU Remain camp gathered in London for the March for Europe, an action mirrored to a lesser extent in cities throughout the UK.

Later on today, pressure group ‘Invoke Article 50 Now!’ will gather outside Parliament for a protest that probably doesn’t require any explanation.

In Westminster itself, a House of Commons Westminster Hall debate will today consider calls for a second EU referendum in response to a petition that has been signed by 4,144,604 people.

The petition itself says: “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60 per cent based on a turnout less than 75 per cent there should be another referendum.”

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued a statement saying ‘this was a once in a generation vote and, as the Prime Minister has said, the decision must be respected. We must now prepare for the process to exit the EU and the Government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people in the negotiations.’

For many, the status of the economy was a major post-referendum worry but recent indications show that Britain has yet to run aground on the rocks of destitution.

By way of an example, a survey from Close Brothers has found that just under two thirds of engineering companies believe Brexit has been beneficial to business.

Overall, the quarterly Business Barometer of UK SME owners and senior managers from a range of sectors has found 56 per cent of respondents reporting no impact after Brexit.

Nationally, 24 per cent of those surveyed said Brexit had had a direct effect on their company, while a further 20 per cent felt that it was too early to make a judgement.

According to Close Brothers, businesses in Greater London felt the most affected by Brexit, with 46 per cent answering ‘yes’ to the question ‘have you seen an impact on your business caused by Britain’s decision to leave the EU?’; 38 per cent answered ‘no’.

Least affected was the North East (no – 71 per cent; yes – 20 per cent) and East Anglia (no – 69 per cent; yes – 12 per cent). In Wales 63 per cent answered ‘no’ and 12 per cent said ‘yes’.

Of those companies who felt that there had been an impact on their business, 40 per cent have seen an improvement in business while 43 per cent have seen a decrease.

The remainder (17 per cent) said business had stayed about the same. Engineering firms were the most positive, with 65 per cent of firms surveyed saying the impact of Brexit has been beneficial.

The publication of the Close Brothers’ survey coincides with last week’s seasonally adjusted PMI, which shot up from a low of 48.3 in July to 53.3 in August, and news from jobs website CV-Library which has seen an increase in jobs, salaries and candidate applications in August 2016, particularly in engineering where there’s been year-on-year growth of 10.7 per cent. Engineering salaries are said to have risen by 0.5 per cent in August, which is behind the national average of 4.7 per cent.

The top ten sectors for job growth were:

  1. Automotive: 43.2 per cent growth
  2. Manufacturing: 36.5 per cent growth
  3. Marketing: 31.8 per cent growth
  4. Construction: 30.3 per cent growth
  5. Catering: 24.8 per cent growth
  6. Hospitality: 22.1 per cent growth
  7. IT: 18.8 per cent growth
  8. Property: 16.2 per cent growth
  9. Engineering: 10.7 per cent growth
  10.  Public Sector: 7.2 per cent growth

Commenting on today’s findings, Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library said: “In the face of the nation’s economic woes, it’s understandable that salaries in the sector may be stagnant, as the engineering industry is often one of the first to be hit in volatile times, and businesses may be remaining conservative amongst the on-going uncertainty. That said, it’s clear that the UK’s engineering sector is continuing to thrive and businesses and candidates alike should be confident in the fact that the job market is growing, salaries are increasing and application rates are remaining strong.”