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Strengthen chemicals industry for Brexit, CIA tells UK government

March 2, 2017
Chemical Value Chain

The Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has urged the government’s chief finance minister to take immediate action to strengthen the UK chemicals industry rather than adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy on Brexit.

CIA chief executive Steve Elliott made the comments ahead of Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s spring Budget speech on 8 March, which will set out the government’s plans for the national economy.

“I want the chancellor to use this opportunity to further strengthen the backbone of UK industry rather than, as some say, ‘tidy up previous announcements’ while we wait for the uncertainty of Brexit to clear,” Mr Elliott says.

“As we begin to tackle the detail of Brexit and its unknown outcomes, now is the time to provide a confidence boost to manufacturing and its related workforce throughout the UK.”

In a submission to the government, CIA has made seven proposals that it says would help kickstart the government’s commitment to a new industrial strategy. A strong and diverse domestic chemical industry is a key part of a successful manufacturing sector and critical to an industrial strategy, CIA says. Its proposals include:

support from the government’s economic and finance ministry (HM Treasury) to develop and fund an industrial strategy built on a sectoral approach; and during its negotiations with the EU, the government should work to allow non-UK born EU nationals working in the UK to remain. It should also permit a system that will help attract skilled personnel from outside the country, which is vital in the areas of specialist scientists and engineers, and the contractor workforce. “Obstruction of talent, either by post-Brexit immigration policies, or by retaliatory measures imposed elsewhere, has no upside,” says the submission. “It is not possible to substitute 20 years of specialist knowledge in a very specific chemical discipline with a local training scheme.”

After the prime minister’s speech on 17 January setting out the government’s plans to exit the single market and not pursue membership of the Customs Union, Mr Elliott said the UK chemical industry must “unite and play our part” to inform the government on getting the best deal with the EU.

Key priorities
And writing in the Chemical Watch’s February Global Business Briefing, CIA chemicals policy director Nishma Patel said the speech provided “welcome clarification”” on this issue.

The chemicals sector contributes £60m a day to the UK economy, she said.

Last June the CIA set out its four key priorities for ensuring the country’s chemical industry continues to succeed beyond the exit. These are:

  • tariff-free access to the single market;
  • the availability of skilled people;
  • the supply of competitive and secure energy; and
  • a policy framework that encourages scientific progress, leading to sustainable growth.

In November, UK junior Brexit minister Robin Walker told the CIA his department recognises the importance UK chemical manufacturers attach to being able to trade freely with the EU, after it has left the trade bloc.

Source: Chemical Watch

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