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All important access

25 October 2016

A survey carried out over July and August this year by GAMBICA to establish the priorities and actions of member companies following the UK vote to leave the European Union has highlighted 'Access to the Single Market' and 'Access to Skilled Workers' as the factors of greatest importance

Representing almost 40% of the membership, 78 member companies responded to the survey, covering a diverse representation of micro, small, medium and large companies, with both manufacturers and non-manufacturers represented.

Asked “What do you think should be the priorities for the UK Government in negotiations with the European Union?”, participants ranked seven options in priority order for their business. In the graphic each option was given a score according to the number of times it appeared in each rank.

The number one priority identified by members is Access to the Single Market by a clear margin.

It was ranked number one by 79% of participants and in the top 3 by 92% of participants. It was also ranked number one priority by all sizes of company (micro to large) and by both manufacturers and non-manufacturers.

Analysing the survey, GAMBICA asserted: ”Trading within and as part of the European market is of the highest importance for our industries. We can clearly represent our members in this issue to government, not only as GAMBICA but as part of wider industry groups such as EAMA and ESCO. We expect this issue to be high on the agenda of most industry groups and will seek to add our voice wherever possible.”

Access to Skilled Workers came out as the next priority, particularly amongst manufacturers and medium / large companies. The skills gap is widely acknowledged and access to skilled labour from outside the UK is, and will continue to be, an important factor in addressing that problem. GAMBICA is also collaborating with wider industry groups on this topic which is common across many industries.

Influence on Standards was the 3rd highest priority, for both small and large companies and again particularly for manufacturers. Standards committee representation is one of the activities highly valued by our members and we have experts on over 100 BSI committees. This will enable GAMBICA to continue to influence international and European standards through CEN, CENELEC and IEC.

Freezes & monitoring

When asked “In the next few months before Article 50 is triggered, are there any specific actions that you expect to have to take within your company as a reaction to the outcome of the Referendum?”,  the short-term actions fell mainly into two types; employment freezes and exchange rate monitoring.

Many members indicated that the referendum decision would now generate further uncertainty and instability as we go through the Brexit process due to many unanswered but fundamental questions. There is a general concern that customer investment decisions may be influenced both by uncertainty and the fluctuating currency exchange rates, which could have a knock-on effect on their own decisions to employ staff.

In addition to a widespread freeze on employment, a significant number also indicated postponements of investment decisions in expansions or acquisitions, with some considering re-location to sites in countries that will remain within the EU.

Longer term, the predominant response is one of needing to understand how to manage the situation depending on the outcomes of political negotiations, regulatory changes and government policy. The high level of uncertainty is a cause for questioning future investment, expansion and partnerships. One of our roles here is to influence government policy, in particular the future Industrial Strategy, to minimise the period of uncertainty and create a stable business environment.

Other areas of concern raised by participants in the study include continuation of funding for universities and research, impact on investment in infrastructure and having a clear energy policy.

According to GAMBICA, the results of the survey give a clear direction for all areas of operation, whether influencing government policy, regulation or standards. Access to the single market and skilled labour are critical in bringing stability and that both standards and regulation are essential to support that goal.

GAMBICA is the Trade Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology in the UK. It has membership of over 200 companies including the major multinationals in the sector as well as smaller and medium sized companies.

The Association's primary objectives are to further the successful development of the industry and to promote the competitiveness and profitability of member companies.