With the initial shock of Coronavirus
having been absorbed, international
trade issues are coming more into
public discussion and reporting. Jack
Semple, Engineering & Machinery
Alliance secretary gives us an update
Michael Gove, the de facto Brexit minister
says he is concerned but not surprised by
internal government figures showing that
61% of firms have made no preparations
for the end of the Brexit transition period.
The government has launched a transition
advertising campaign next under a £4.5
million contract with PR firm MullenLowe.
The website Politico has reported on the
communications plan. This summer, the
campaign will nudge people to take
action, by warning of the “consequences
and opportunity” ahead.
In the autumn, the campaign will use an
approach designed to “shock and awe”,
the term used by the US military to
describe the intended impact on the
enemy of its military forces in the Iraq War.
The contract is for 12 months and the
campaign could go on well into 2022.
In December, the campaign will focus on
“loss avoidance”, then switch to
‘”opportunities” in January.
Government research is reported to have
shown firms are complacent and that they
are reluctant to act without certainty.
Some are more likely to prepare because
they are worried about the impact of
Brexit and these firms “will not respond
well to overly positive messaging”. Brexit
voters are “less likely to prepare as they
don’t believe in any potential negative
consequences of leaving”.
Gove, speaking to the Northern Ireland
select committee last week, said the
planned campaign was needed “to make
sure people aware of the both the
challenges and opportunities as we
prepare for life outside the EU and outside
the single market”.
“There are a number of actions businesses
have been encouraged to take, for
example acquiring the wherewithal to be
able to export to European countries once
we are outside the customs union and
single market, and to take advantage of
free trade agreements and opportunities
elsewhere,” Gove said.
Comment: Public and political discussion
of preparedness has been one-sided, in
that it has tended to focus on
administrative and process issues – what
the UK government will do and require,
and what businesses will have to do in
response. Much of this remains unknown,
Much less discussed is what companies are
already doing in terms of their business
relationships. On the one hand, there is
the potential for work to come back to the
UK, on the other for it to move abroad.
Anecdotally, we have heard of UK firms
losing EU business, and losing UK
customers who have, or are in the process
of, relocating outside the UK; and we hear
of reshoring initiatives. Here, there is little
information, and such as there is, is not
collated. In the past three months, these
issues have been eclipsed by the Covid
There is little discussion to
the issue of exporting to
the EU, which is -
arguably - even more
Similarly, attention has focused on
government actions about the flow of
goods into the country, because that is
what government controls. There is little
discussion to the issue of exporting to the
EU, which is - arguably - even more
Tariff pledge to Northern Irish firms
Michael Gove has said that secondary
legislation would be brought in to re-imburse
firms in Northern Ireland, should
tariffs be payable because of a lack of
28 AirUser 2020/21