Editor's comment: Deal or no deal…

03 January 2021

Brexit map

Happy New Year, dear reader! While most of us are probably happy to see the back of 2020 – a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated & transformed almost every facet of our lives & work – I do hope you were able to enjoy a relaxing & safe break over the Christmas & New Year period. So, back to Brexit...

A version of this editorial was originally featured in the January 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Writing this editorial for EPDT’s January issue, back in early December, I had hoped that there would be more certainty for business and individuals around how Brexit is going to impact us in 2020 – but surprise, surprise, no resolution has yet been reached, with talks ongoing well into the eleventh hour. And despite his ‘oven-ready deal’ – and what many on #TeamLeave told us, the Prime Minister is now saying that ‘no deal’ is “very, very likely”… [editor's note: of course, we now know a deal was struck, at almost the last possible moment – though the jury is maybe still out on exactly what it means for UK business and individuals...]

Regardless of your position on Brexit, life – and business – will, of course, go on, whatever the outcome of negotiations – and irrespective of any deal… or no deal. But it won’t be the same. It’s inescapable that things will be different – and that some things will likely be harder or worse; hopefully, others will be easier or better – though both remain to be seen. No deal has often been described as the outcome nobody wants – either here in the UK or in the EU. Well, by the time you read this, I hope we will at least know, in broad terms, what we are going to get, one way or the other...

Business – represented by trade and industry bodies like Make UK (The Manufacturers’ Organisation) and the CBI (the Confederation of British Industry) – has tended to advocate strongly for a deal. But more importantly, it has repeatedly called for an end to damaging uncertainty – for help and guidance as businesses try their best to prepare, in the face of unprecedented challenges driven by the coronavirus pandemic, for the impending cliff edge of an unknown trading, shipping and regulatory environment – and the risk of having no trading arrangement with our largest market.

Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive of Make UK has warned that “…no deal would be catastrophic for Britain’s manufacturers”, putting at risk “…a sector which creates hundreds of billions of pounds of economic value and supports 2.7 million jobs, many of which are heavily dependent on trade with the EU”. Josh Hardie, acting CBI Director General said last month: “…the situation facing companies is stark. Businesses’ resilience has been stripped bare by coronavirus. Despite huge efforts, firms are telling me they’ve gone as far as they can to prepare. With just 45 days left, many business-critical issues remain unresolved.”

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

For our electronics industry – a sector whose supply chain, in all directions, is fundamentally global – there will, of course, like any other sector, be impacts. Exchange rate changes have made imports more expensive, raising the cost of the many electronic components that are manufactured overseas. And there are concerns and uncertainty around import/export controls and tariffs introducing both additional cost and time moving forward. Product regulation, conformity and marking will become more complex, with the new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessment) mark being required for certain products to be sold in the UK – but the CE mark also still required for products being sold into the EU. Not to mention the issue of talent and access to highly-skilled workers from overseas, which the industry has often previously relied upon.

After four years of uncertainty, whatever happens between now and when you read this, hopefully we will, at least, know the broad shape of what our trading relationship with our largest trading partner will be moving forward. And then, it will be down to our industry, as with everyone else, to figure out how to make it work – deal or no deal…

EPDT January 2021's issue also contains features on Sensor technologies and Medical applications, as well as EPDT's latest edition of its bi-annual Electronics Distribution supplement. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month...

Mark Gradwell

Editor


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