The post Brexit landscape
So a mere seven months after voting to leave the EU, it seems that Article 50 is finally going to be invoked, and the whole sorry process is about to start. So where does that leave the UK Sign Industry and what does the future hold?
I’m not going to lie to you; I was very much a staunch remainer. I couldn’t see the benefit of leaving the largest and richest trading block in the world. But as 52 percent of the voting public disagreed with me, I’m going to have to suck it up.
At this moment we are waiting for the process of leaving to start, and as such, we haven’t really been able to gauge the full affect of leaving the EU. What we have seen is a devaluation of the pound. We are starting to see this having an impact on input costs in manufacturing, with suppliers now having to pay more for their raw materials. These price rises will inevitably be passed on to signmakers, if they haven’t already.
Longer term, the picture isn’t particularly rosy either. What happens next will depend largely on the competence of the government and its ability to agree a smooth exit and reasonable trade deal with the EU. If they fail, or if parliament rejects the deal that the government have negotiated, then we will be facing tariffs, another cost that will have to be absorbed, either by suppliers, signmakers or their customers.
The potential offset to this is that Britain will be free to pursue trade deals with other nations and trade blocks. Indeed, much is being pinned on a trade deal with Trump’s US. There are also opportunities in the Far East and with the emerging markets in India and elsewhere.
The problem here, is that there is no guarantee that they will be more beneficial to the UK, and of course we won’t be able to sign any deal for at least two years until we have fully exited the EU.
So in the short term we will have to navigate the uncertainty and cope with higher prices.
Bonfire of regulations?
One of the principles of the Leave campaign was that it would restore sovereignty to the Parliament, thus allowing for unnecessary regulations and laws to be removed without fear of being overruled by the European Court of Justice.
Being free of this burden should mean that we remove all the barriers to innovation and prosperity that UK businesses face, right?
Erm, probably not. The Prime Minister has signalled that the great repeal bill will simply move all those pesky regulations into UK law. Unpicking these laws will take years of political infighting. In addition, if any business wants to deal with EU countries, they will have to abide by EU rules anyway, even if they are not enforced by the UK.
The fact is that some of the more difficult regulations that the Sign Industry faces are actually planning regulations, which have nothing to do with the EU. So we’re unlikely to see any substantial change. Let’s hope that the British Sign & Graphics Association can keep up the good fight in opposing some of the more ridiculous ones.
I realise that this all sounds rather gloomy. That’s mainly because the drivers are politicians, which given the current state of politics doesn’t fill me with much hope.
If Brexit is to be a success, it will not be based on the actions of politicians. It will be based on the vision, creativity, bravery and sheer bloody mindedness of British businesses.
The instinct at the moment is to hold fire, wait and see how things pan out and then react. However, waiting for the dust to settle will see British industries shrink, and have to fight even harder to recover from whatever mess the politicos leave us with.
Brexit presents us with a unique opportunity to build something new, but we have to start now. That means looking at new products, new markets, investing in education or equipment to drive us forward.
The UK sign and graphics sector has shown just how good it can be – just look at last year’s British Sign Awards for evidence of the quality we can produce. The best thing we can do is just grab the bull by the horns and press ahead – if we do this now perhapsthe future doesn’t have to be bleak!