UK industry resilient enough to meet Brexit uncertainties “head on” buy Prime Minister May must have small and medium sized businesses in mind when heading into negotiations with the EU.
Corrotherm CEO Jan Ward tells Pound Sterling Live that confidence at the company has been boosted by the rise in exports triggered by a fall in Sterling following the EU referendum.
Corrotherm is a distributor of heat and corrosion resistant materials from the UK and is headed by Ward who was the 2009 winner of the the Most Inspirational Female category in the NatWest Everywoman Award.
“Some of our confidence is linked to the one area that has increased. Export orders are on the rise, aided by the pound remaining down against both the dollar and the euro. This trend is expected to continue to rise for the remainder of the year and into 2017,” says Ward.
The weaker Pound has prompted exports to rise across the UK manufacturing sector with the September Manufacturing PMI release from Markit showing manufacturers expanding exports to China, the USA and EU.
Before the referendum, Ward reports that the Board was mixed on policy due to the lack of information around Brexit, but the outcome has remained the same.
She says, “The results of the referendum had little effect on our future strategy as we have not been looking to expand our markets due to the effects of the drop in oil prices, however we have been looking at some diversification of products and suppliers. At present we are concentrating on fighting for the small amount of business available and ensuring that we stay competitive as more companies enter our space as their traditional business fades, and expanding our supplier base.”
With the dust beginning to settle and production data available for the post-Brexit period, businesses are starting to see the real-world situation as it stands.
Ward reports, “Output, UK orders, employment and investment are down, but not dramatically more than expected given the trends from the start of the year. As a result, business confidence is also down, although it is slowly growing despite a general uncertainty over just how the Brexit vote will affect us long term.”
No Black and White Outcome to Brexit
Future trade agreements will be closely watched by all at Corrotherm and a previously agreed office in France will take shape shortly. But with talks of a hard vs soft Brexit, Ward is wary of the marked uncertainty currently effecting the markets.
“I don’t believe that a soft Brexit deal is going to be politically acceptable and is unlikely to be pursued by this administration. The rhetoric coming from Europe at present seems to be mixed, with the politicians and commissioners talking tough but being contradicted by European business leaders.
“It’s probably not going to be a black and white outcome, and we will end up with a combination of concessions to Brussels along with some “red line” issues that are non negotiable. Europeans, especially France and Germany, are seeing this as an opportunity for them to attract non-European inward investment, such as tax breaks for financial services, which may also drive a softer approach.”
Realistically, Ward believes that the current UK infrastructure is not set up to support a ‘hard-Brexit’, with further government negotiators across all departments.
Most worrying is the lack of silence on the issues that are currently stagnating the market places.
Ward says, “There may be a lot going on in the background, but that’s no help to businesses who are out of the loop. I believe business organisations should be far more proactive publicly on the detail of what business wants from the deal.”
Get on With Brexit Negotiations
Ward is also an avid supporter of the SME, who, as negotiations start, she believes is not being considered.
She says, “My advice would be for the government to get on with it. Uncertainty is businesses worst enemy. I would also like to see the government including SME’s in their consultations as I suspect that it will only be big business that is getting input at the moment.”
Overall, Ward remains practical and positive – she has certainly weathered previous complications in a changing manufacturing industry.
“As always, we remain positive here at Corrotherm. There will certainly be more challenges ahead, but the UK industry is capable of meeting them head on,” says Ward.
Ward founded Corrotherm in 1992 and started supplying high grade metals to the oil gas and desalination markets.
Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, expanding significantly and building up a strong global presence and blue-chip customer base.
Now spread throughout the world, the UK office looks after a geographical area that includes the UK, Europe and Eastern Europe.
The company is mostly based around oil but also sell into petrochemicals and a small amount of aerospace products that the they are looking to expand.
A keen international traveller, Ward has used her experience to build overseas markets and develop long-term customer relationships, especially in the Middle East.