Unite’s new Manufacturing Strategy won praise from MPs yesterday (November 29), with the document’s plans for a post-Brexit economy being hailed as “robust and credible” by shadow ministers.
MPs contrasted the strategy’s positions on Brexit, the skills crisis and the vital role trade unions have in bringing about a manufacturing renaissance with the government’s “thin on the ground” Industrial Strategy – published this week.
“Shaping the Future of Manufacturing” was launched in Parliament, where MPs and other guests heard from Unite reps from across the manufacturing sectors involved in drawing up the policies.
The launch was attended by more than 20 MPs, including shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey.
The document – which lays out plans to create jobs through investment, plug the skills gap, encourage reshoring, make the UK a global leader in digital technology and stimulate manufacturing growth – was described as “powerful” by Long-Bailey.
Other Labour politicians compared the strategy with the government’s rudderless approach during a time of increasing Brexit uncertainty.
Paula Sherriff MP said: “The government’s industrial strategy is very thin on the ground indeed. So much is dependent on Brexit – from tariffs to workers’ rights and I have so many concerns. We need to make sure we’re asking the government the right questions.”
David Hanson MP said “the focus for the next 18 months has to be that these industries aren’t damaged by the actions of the government”, while Phil Wilson MP pointed out that Brexit costs are already mounting.
Wilson said: “We haven’t even left the EU yet but it’s already costing our defence sector money. Due to the fluctuation in the exchange rate it’s costing an extra £2bn to pay for equipment we’d already ordered.”
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said UK employers were worried about how the government’s lacklustre Industrial Strategy will cope with Brexit.
He said: “The general view of employers we’ve met since the government published the Industrial Strategy has ranged from ‘tepid’ to ‘just rehashing old policies’. Of course the elephant in the room is Brexit.”
Vice-chair of Unite’s manufacturing combine, Trish Ford, spelt out the Brexit-related measures needed to protect the future of UK manufacturing.
“A strong and growing manufacturing base is vital to protect Britain’s economy as we withdraw from the European Union. We must ensure that it is our principles which form the basis for this country’s post-Brexit settlement,” Ford said.
“To defend investment and jobs, Unite calls for barrier free access to the European Single Market. This means no costly tariffs, no divergence of regulatory standards and no barriers that can compromise the vital UK-EU supply chains manufacturing relies on.”