Small UK manufacturers left in dark over Brexit plans - survey

FILE PHOTO: A worker at a factory in Britain, July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly half of small and medium-sized British manufacturers have no idea how the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of this year will affect their business, a survey showed on Monday.

Less than seven weeks before a transition period ends and Britain completes its Brexit journey out of bloc, London and Brussels have stepped up negotiations for a deal that would protect nearly 1 trillion dollars of trade from disruption.

The survey from consultancies South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme underlined the uncertainty around Britain’s future trade ties with the European Union, at a time when many companies are struggling with COVID-19 restrictions.

Some 47% of manufacturers surveyed said they did not know what the end of the transition would mean for their business, while 32% said it would hinder their recovery.

Only 3% predicted a boost.

“It’s like a perfect storm for management teams trying to plan, but have no idea what they are planning for and many are also coping with lower levels of resource as a result of the pandemic,” said Nick Golding, managing director of SWMAS.

Official data published last week showed manufacturing output in Britain stood 8% lower in September than its pre-pandemic level.

But the survey showed optimism has started to return. The share of manufacturers expecting turnover and employment to rise in the next six months outweighed those expecting a fall for the first time in three quarters.

The survey of 409 companies was conducted through October.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg