Businesses across all industries are looking for certainty but are used to operating in changing and challenging conditions. Given the importance of Europe to our members, we are concerned about the economic impact of Brexit. However, there may also be opportunities, for example an independent UK could draw up more favorable trade agreements with other countries with which our members haven’t typically traded.
Hopefully the UK and the EU will be able to reach a pragmatic and productive trading agreement in the future. Depending on when Article 50 is triggered, it will be at least two years until the UK formally leaves the EU. The BCF will be working closely with our European federation (CEPE) and our members to ensure the best possible outcome for the coatings industry, both in the UK and in Europe.
We have a strong manufacturing base (three out of four cans of paint that are sold in the UK are made in the UK) and maintaining this is critical. We have to ensure multi-national companies that have invested heavily in the UK in the past continue to do so in the future. This means creating a favorable trading environment with the EU that doesn’t damage our ability to compete for and attract investment and talented individuals.
Three out of five BCF members export (80% of which are SMEs) and the UK is a net exporter of coatings, paints and inks. Europe accounts for 60% of our members’ exports and we also import a significant amount of raw materials and coatings from Europe. In the future, our members will have to continue to abide by EU regulations when they export, without the UK having a voice in the European parliament or their supporting authorities. However, the BCF is very active on many CEPE committees, on which non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland also sit. Through CEPE we will still be able to represent the UK’s interests and do our utmost to ensure that neither the UK nor the EU coatings industry is adversely affected by the vote.
The UK government will have to decide whether to replace EU legislation with UK regulations or not. This could result in potential benefits for the UK - where we feel strongly on an issue, we will be able to take a different path to the rest of Europe. For example, poison center legislation set to come into force in 2019 might well be an area where the UK now decides a different and more workable path for industry, and an alternative approach to VOC regulations related to Vehicle Refinish paints may also now be feasible, to improve on the existing poor legislation that we currently have.
We now have to look to the future and we are confident that an important, dynamic and innovative industry such as ours can prosper in this new environment. The BCF will be working on behalf of its members to ensure the best possible outcome for the sector.