Düsseldorf, Germany — Mike Boswell, who heads up the British Plastics Federation's (BPF) Brexit committee, has urged Europe to maintain good relations with the country in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Speaking at a KI polymer summit at K 2016, Boswell, who is also managing director of polymer distributor Plastribution and head of the BPF's polymer distribution group, made an impassioned plea for continued good relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and reiterated the key issues the industry hoped to secure following the June referendum vote.
“We want free access to the single market; access to skills, with emphasis on apprentices, engineers and technicians; maintaining and developing legislation compatible with the EU; and support for innovation and overseas business development,” Boswell told an audience drawn from many European countries.
“We have 18,000 non-U.K. EU workers in our industry, and they are important part of what we do.
“And looking ahead, we must have access to the skills we need, across a range of disciplines,” he added.
Access to the single market has become a key “ask” of many businesses within and beyond the U.K. plastics sector in the months since the June 23 referendum.
However, noises coming from Westminster have suggested that this might be forsaken in order to limit immigration — a key plank of the Brexit campaign's case in the run-up to the vote.
And having experienced two shocks since June 23 — the outcome itself and recent comments from Prime Minister Theresa May that the U.K. could go for a “hard” Brexit — Boswell said the pound sterling currency could be hit by two more shocks: the first by the end of March next year, when May triggers Article 50, which legally kick-starts the exit process, with the second coming at end of the two-year negotiating process, when the U.K. officially leaves the EU.
“And remember, Article 50 is not about negotiating a trade deal,” Boswell said. “It's about negotiating how we leave. The trade negotiations will come later.”
In an passionate overview of the U.K. plastics sector, Boswell highlighted its position as the domestic manufacturing sector's second-largest employer, behind only the country's food and drink industry, and said it was home to “more innovation than many of you may think.”
Given that the U.K. was a significant net importer of materials — producing 1.7 million tonnes in the U.K., but using 3.3 million tonnes in processing activities — Boswell also warned that the imposition of onerous trade tariffs would not help the sector.
The U.K.'s trade flows were heavily weighed toward the EU, he said. “Of £7.5 billion worth of U.K. exports, £4.9 billion go to the EU28 countries, and £8 billion of the £11.6 billion-worth of imports come from the same region.”
“The BPF wants to maintain a good relationship with the EU,” he added.