It's time to flesh out May's industrial strategy, British manufacturers warn

 
Mark Sands
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May established the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in launching her first cabinet this summer. (Source: Getty)

Britain's manufacturers are calling on the government to dramatically hasten plans to introduce a new industrial strategy.

Prime Minister Theresa May has stressed the importance of supporting industry since coming to power this summer, introducing a muscular new government department to shepherd work.

But manufacturer trade body EEF has today warned that May and her ministers have yet to set out goals for growth, policies to improve skills and infrastructure, or reduce the costs of doing business.

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EEF research conducted ahead of the summer's Brexit referendum found that manufacturers were setting ambitious targets – with 76 per cent actively aiming for growth, and 63 per cent planning to improve productivity.

But the trade body said comprehensive and long-term planning from government will be critical to support that growth, with firms currently left uncertain how exactly May and the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy aim to proceed.

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said: “We need to get this right and we need to get this in place now so that manufacturers’ growth ambitions are supported across the pre- and post-Brexit divide.

“It is not enough to talk about an industrial strategy – it is time for the Government to draw a line under the stop-go efforts of the past and to demonstrate its commitment to industry by putting some much-needed flesh on the bones.”

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Responding to the report, Labour's shadow minister for industrial strategy Chi Onwurah said the government was failing to meet the challenges of post-Brexit manufacturing.

“The Tories failed to prevent the steel crisis, they have overseen the decline of regions outside of London and starved innovation across the country. It is the Tories who are stopping businesses succeeding.

“British needs and deserves an industrial strategy that enables businesses to thrive and Britons to prosper.”

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A BEIS spokeswoman said: “As the EEF report makes clear, manufacturing makes a far wider contribution to the economy than the 10% share of the UK’s GDP suggests.

“That’s why we’re focused on developing an Industrial Strategy that will boost productivity, create good jobs, and ensure sustainable economic growth.”

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