Leading figures in the plastic industry have warned of the potential impact of reduced rights for European Union (EU) workers and increased import costs, following the political events triggered by the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.
British Plastics Federation director general Philip Law, said: “As a result of currency movements following the referendum there are widespread concerns over the increased costs of imported raw materials and machinery and the impact this will have on competitiveness and investment.
“However with the weaker sterling the referendum has produced there is a swathe of members who are anticipating opportunities to increase exports. The industry has a significant reliance on EU migrant workers at all skill levels and we will need assurance that their working status will be unaffected.”
Luxus managing director Peter Atterby admitted that it was “difficult” to be positive about Brexit because of the current uncertainty.
He said: “Do we really think that we will have free trade with Europe without adhering to EU policy or standards? I think not.
“The human issues created by Brexit are having an impact too, part of our workforce is European and they will continue to be valued members of our team. But they are feeling uncertain about what the future holds right now.”
Axion Polymers director Keith Freegard said that workers from Eastern Europe had been a key part of the firm's growth over the last 15 years.
He added: “Many process operators and maintenance engineers have moved to the UK and established their family homes in Manchester in a manner that is a positive contribution to the local economy. Dealing with the concerns that this set of key workers are now feeling would seem to be a priority, in my opinion.”
Summit Systems chief operating officer Keith Bailey raised concerns over the now cautious approach to investment. He said: “At Summit Systems we are a little concerned to see customers holding back on investment decisions as they wait to see what will happen.”
For materials distributor Plastribution, currency fluctuations are impacting on its business.
Managing director Mike Boswell, said: “As expected the devaluation of the pound against the dollar and euro is resulting in plastic raw material price inflation and price increases for July sales are already evident.”
RJG Technologies managing director Richard Brown, said the main initial impact on the firm will be currency movements as the firm purchases in U.S. dollars and trades in pounds and euros.
He said: “We are now in uncharted territory and it appears that the political planning is only just starting to determine what post Brexit U.K. will look like.
“Long-term it will depend on how trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world are negotiated and what current EU laws that affect business are adopted or dropped.
“The outcome of the negotiations between the U.K. and the EU, when they commence, and any action taken by the U.K. government to sidestep the U.K.'s obligations under EU law will have different consequences for each business.
“We will need to monitor this closely and adapt as required.”
Data Plastics managing director Carl Reeve, said he agreed with much of the BPF's statement regarding increased costs, access to labor, and exporting opportunities.
He added: “Brexit will not be a straight win or lose and the full implications will take years to filter through. As businesses I think we would all prefer banks and politicians to leave us alone to get on with our jobs.
“Political and financial uncertainty has an unsettling impact on the economy that is generally unhelpful.
“Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is the lack of planning and organization from the Out camp. The result, instead of being celebrated by the winners, was met with muted astonishment, retraction of promises and a round of resignations. Unsurprisingly this has done little to calm the markets and increase confidence.”