Manufacturers expect to grow in 2017 despite Brexit disruption, research shows

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More than two thirds of manufacturing firms are expecting to grow this year despite the impact of Brexit - that's according to the findings of a newly published Business Census 2017 report.

The annual survey of 1,300 firms, carried out by the business data website Company Check during November and December, revealed that 70% of companies are predicting an increase in turnover over the next 12 months.

However, that strong growth prediction comes despite the fact that when asked about Brexit, more than a third (34%) of manufacturers said the vote to leave had already had a negative impact on their business.

Katie Deverill, from Company Check, said: "The Business Census lets us 'take the temperature' of UK manufacturing to understand the big challenges they're going to be facing during the next 12 months. Brexit may have already had a chilling effect on future business growth in some places, but business leaders still appear confident individually about their prospects for the year ahead.

"That said, however, there's also high levels of disaffection with local authorities when it comes to them supporting and nurturing business growth. The powers that be should take note of these figures and recognise that something in the current system just isn't working."

The 70% of manufacturers predicting growth compares to 73% for the UK as a whole across all professions questioned for the survey.

While on the question of Brexit, 22% of manufacturing firms said the impact so far had been positive, while 42% said there had been no change.

Across all UK sectors, 30% said it had been negative, 15% said it had been positive and 55% said no change.

Just 27% in manufacturing said they thought local government was doing a good job to support business growth, in line with the 30% nationally who felt the same; down 10% in a year.

Martin Hurworth, managing director of British manufacturing business Harvey Water Softeners, said: "The manufacturing industry has experienced some challenges, but the latest GDP figures are proof that we are growing through uncertainty. In a post-Brexit economy, manufacturing in the UK will be more important than ever. We need bold action and certainty to give companies a reason to stay here and invest.

"The results of the Business Census show that the economy is still a concern in our industry and we recognise there are some potentially challenging times ahead. But we're confident in our future as a British family business and are positioned for growth, with plans to invest significantly in the local area and R&D."

The Business Census questioned people working across the UK. Nationally, concerns about political events almost doubled compared to 2016, with it being named the biggest challenge ahead by one in three (30%), an increase of 90% on the year before.

For manufacturing that figure was slightly lower than average (28%), with the economy topping the list instead at 33%. This could be reflective of the fact that the economy was the biggest challenge for manufacturers in 2016 too.

And more than a quarter of firms (28%) said they feared economic decline next year, in line with the UK average.

All percentages referenced above have been rounded down to full numbers from two decimal places.

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