As we go into 2017, it would be nice to think we can all start afresh, especially with post-Brexit negotiatons being high on the agenda for the new year.
Soon, the legal mechanism to formally begin Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, known as Article 50, will be invoked.
It will trigger a two-year timetable in which the terms and conditions of the UK’s exit must be negotiated.
Here, the Government can end the uncertainty caused by the referendum and bring some stability to manufacturing by investing in a procurement programme which could create a strong internal market.
Building a product where it is bought, and using what we manufacture, would make finanical sense.
Take the Ford Fiesta; it is the best-selling car in the UK, but is currently manufactured in Cologne.
Procurement should be part of a government toolkit to support industries such as steel and the automotive sector.
Such a tool kit must include investment, subsidisation, tax credits and support for the training of apprentices.
The government must progress with large infrastructure projects to create and maintain jobs, including the Heathrow expansion and the HS2 link between London and Manchester, both of which could be supported by our own steel industry.
Brexit negotiations must include the retention of employment rights which are underpinned by EU legislation and case law.
These include rights defending workers’ time regulations, paid holidays, maternity and parental leave, and equal pay.
If within the two-year timeframe of negotiations an agreement is not reached, a hard Brexit should be avoided.
Despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent announcement that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, it is crucial that we stay away from the mindset of leaving at any price.
It is vital to retain access to the single market for the long-term stability of UK manufacturing and jobs, currently worth £229 billion to British manufacturing in terms of exports.
If the Government cannot get the right deal for the country, we could see a damaging effect on manufacturing and jobs for decades to come.