UK manufacturers echo calls for ’soft’ Brexit

British manufacturers warn the UK government that a pro-business stance needs to be taken in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

manufacturers echo calls for ’soft’ Brexit
British manufacturers are calling on the new government to adopt a 'softer' approach to Brexit in the wake of last week's election, when the ruling Conservative Party failed to achieve a parliamentary majority.EEF, the manufacturers' organisation which represents some 20,000 companies, said access to the single market and a form of customs union should now be part of a "radical" re-focusing of priorities by a government that, until now, has appeared bent on a 'hard' Brexit.The EEF report, which echoes similar calls from other business organisation, warns that unless the government adopts a more pro-business stance in Brexit negotiations, companies could be forced to relocate business investments away from the UK. Almost a quarter of manufacturers were already reviewing their business strategy before last week's election, according to an EEF survey.Terry Scuoler, EEF chief executive, said: "The new government's priorities must radically re-focus Brexit negotiations around trade and close co-operation ensuring a smooth exit from the EU."There are numerous ways of establishing a new relationship with the EU and, given we've just wasted a year, the government needs to move away from its previous rhetoric and start repairing relations with EU partners."This means putting access to the single market and a form of customs union at the heart of a revised strategy."The UK can surely manage who is and who is not in the country by introducing a more effective and robust form of immigration control which maintains the rights of EU citizens and UK citizens across Europe."With less than two years to negotiate a meaningful deal, the government should commit to a significant period of transition to manage uncertainty for businesses and bolster confidence."
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Another report published on Tuesday suggested the hung parliament resulting from the general election could mean a softer Brexit than expected, which could lessen the impact on employers of cutbacks in hiring staff.A survey of more than 2,100 employers by Manpower Group found a majority voiced cautious optimism about hiring, especially in manufacturing, restaurants and hotels, utilities and agriculture.James Hick, a spokesman for Manpower, said: "Employers have faced a triple whammy of uncertainty over the last few months - a snap election, the triggering of Article 50, and weak economic data for the first half of 2017."You might have expected hiring confidence to have taken a real hit, but employers have been standing firm. However, unquestionably they feared the outcome of a hard Brexit on the jobs market."The election result throws into question the Conservative commitment to slash immigration to the tens of thousands and double the levy on non-EU workers to £2,000."The simple truth is that some sectors will stall without skilled workers from overseas, which could result in the UK economy entering a tailspin."People might be surprised to learn that in the last year 80,000 Bulgarians and Romanians entered the UK workforce, while the size of the UK-born workforce did not increase at all, demonstrating just how accustomed we have become to a steady stream of labour from overseas. Slamming the door shut will leave us seriously exposed."

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