UK needs to renew industrial strategy and stop ‘rolling over’, say manufacturers | Manufacturing sector

The UK must relaunch its industrial strategy and stop flipping initiatives if it is to avoid falling behind on the global stage, manufacturing bosses have warned.

Make UK, which represents 20,000 manufacturers across the country, has warned British businesses that they risk losing out to firms elsewhere in the world due to the government’s lack of a long-term plan for the industry, while Joe Biden’s $369 billion (292 billion pounds) sucks up the investment.

In a scathing attack on successive Conservative governments for “jumping from one initiative to another”, it called for a royal commission to develop a long-term modern industrial strategy to support businesses across the UK.

Under Theresa May, the government launched an industrial strategy in 2017, focusing on boosting jobs and investment outside London and the South East following the Brexit vote. However, the strategy was abandoned by Boris Johnson along with a powerful council of business leaders and advisers tasked with monitoring investment in the UK’s under pressure regions.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, said the UK was the only leading country in the world without a comprehensive, long-term industrial plan. “If we are to not only tackle our regional inequalities but also compete globally, we urgently need a national industrial strategy,” he added.

“The lack of a proper, planned industrial strategy is Britain’s Achilles heel. Every other major economy, from Germany to China to the United States, has a long-term national production plan that emphasizes the importance of the industrial base to the success of the overall economy.”

Auto industry bosses fear the UK will be left behind by the failure of investment in a large-scale electric car battery factory.

Adrian Hallmark, chief executive of luxury car maker Bentley, told the Financial Times that other countries offer incentives that are “orders of magnitude more attractive than the UK”.

The car manufacturer from Crewe is owned by the German Volkswagen. Hallmark said big car companies were tempted by incentives in “Canada, Spain, Poland, Belgium and even Germany – one of the most expensive markets in Europe” to build battery factories.

“It’s surprising, if not a little disturbing, that it doesn’t [electric vehicle] manufacturer or manufacturer of batteries has chosen the UK as an investment destination,” he said.

Underlining the emphasis on a renewed industrial strategy, Make UK said around 80% of companies in a survey of 312 manufacturers believed that the lack of a plan put their company at a competitive disadvantage against companies in other countries.

Nearly 60% said they believed the government had never had a solid vision for manufacturing, while as many as a quarter said this was the main reason the sector had not grown faster over the past decade.

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