We must make 2016 the year of British manufacturing

The Government is encouraging British companies to export – and that must be encouraged. But there is another avenue open to us if our manufacturers are to thrive, says BMFQ – and that could be through our own backdoor…

The recent TV advertising campaign by HM Government encourages British companies to export. The advertisements show a leading light in the Pakistan energy industry call upon British technicians to work with him – meanwhile, other overseas businessmen (in Portugal and China) encourage Great Britain to come to their countries. The message is: there are gaps in foreign markets, and we are not doing enough to “exploit” them.

Britain, as a maritime world-trading power has always been at the forefront of exports, but as we all know, governments and politicians (whether sporting a red or blue rosette) have understood little about manufacturing, and as a consequence, have not been particularly receptive to our manufacturers’ needs – investing very little in industrial or trading campaigns. Keen to rely upon capital, banks, information technology and services – and consumer spending sprees – governments have neglected the bedrock of our economy: the vital, real, tangible manufactures which can actually be bought and sold, and which can in turn be used to make other items and expand industry.

‘A number of weaknesses’

As we end 2015, the outlook is not as healthy as it could be. A recent analysis from the BBC stated the following:

“UK manufacturing growth slowed last month from the rapid pace seen in October, according to the latest Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). The index fell to 52.7 in November from a 16-month high of 55.2 in October. Any reading above 50 indicates growth. Markit said November’s data was positive, but that weaknesses remain. Markit economist Rob Dobson said in a statement: “While the improvement in recent months is a welcome trend, scratching beneath the surface of the manufacturing numbers stills exposes a number of weaknesses. Growth remains heavily focussed on the domestic consumer, while the strong gains at large-scale producers have yet to filter through.”*

BMFQ believes that over-reliance on the domestic consumer can only be of benefit to the UK economy if goods (household items, food, clothing, electrical, mechanical, cars etc) are made in Britain. That is why we call upon the Government to initiate a campaign to encourage British people to show a preference for home-produced products – and for British companies to do much more to secure the vital home market.

An anchorage

Renault and Peugeot in France, and Mercedes and Audi in Germany, are the classic exemplars of the economics of national preference – the very thinking which secures a permanent base for an industry. Of course, Renault and Peugeot and their German counterparts are great exporters, but their success and long-term security has come from a sense that their business needs to be anchored within a home market. Such an approach means that companies and countries can weather financial storms and international downturns.

We wish all British exporters great success, and we hope that 2016 will be a great year for manufacturing. But we need, at least, a modest realignment in our objectives, and that must include a clearer sense that a robust home market is the ultimate guarantor of prosperity and progress.