The clock is ticking, and now we only need to count the days, not the years, until we leave the European Union.
Brexit shall soon be upon us, and I anticipate more parties than wakes. The countdown will then continue for the end of the transition period in 2020, when there will be more chinking of glasses and patriotic songs.
Fun that may be for some, (and I can’t deny I shall join in), it is not what the real world is about.
The UK has to pull its business breeks up and get down to work, for we need to be ready to compete harder than ever.
While there has been a great deal of negativity about the UK and our Brexit prospects, there is actually a great deal of good news, which – when looked at collectively – gives us reason to be optimistic and should spur us on.
One of the biggest stories the public is not aware of is the amount of reshoring and resourcing that is happening.
Now I am not going to make the mistake of claiming this is all down to Brexit – that is highly unlikely. But this trend does show that it’s not all doom and gloom.
In fact, reshoring of business back to the UK is the reverse of what the great scaremongers of the Treasury, Bank of England, IMF, OECD, and CBI were all warning of back in the summer of 2016.
Consider this little list: Clarks shoes has started manufacturing some of its boots in Somerset again, Vodaphone is reshoring call centre jobs back here, McLaren is creating hundreds of jobs for its chassis production in Sheffield, Gtech is bringing vacuum cleaner production back to the UK, and Frog is re-shoring its bike production on British soil.
And it’s not just the larger companies that are doing it.
The fall in the pound against the euro and US dollar means businesses have faced increased costs for imported components, which has in turn forced many firms to re-assess their suppliers.
Some companies have been surprised to find cheaper sources in the UK and made the switch.
In fact, one reported food producer went from 20 per cent UK-sourced ingredients to 70 per cent.
The automotive industry is especially concerned about the reliability of its supply chains, and many businesses have started sourcing more parts domestically for when we leave the Single Market and Customs Union – taking advantage of the time that the implementation period gives them to make an orderly change.
But many businesses also acknowledge that to take full advantage of the forthcoming trade deals – which will bring lower tariffs to cars assembled in the UK – they will need a minimum level of British components to qualify, hence the great adjustment that is currently taking place at Nissan, Honda, and Jaguar Land Rover among others.
According to the Automotive Council, the proportion of British-sourced components of our cars has already moved up to 44 per cent from 41 per cent in the past year.
In fact, Nissan UK has announced it will double UK-sourced components to 80 per cent by value, from 40 per cent.
Such changes obviously attract investment.
Liberty House recently bought the UK’s last aluminium smelter in Fort William and is planning a car wheel pressing plant next door (take note Nicola Sturgeon).
It intends to churn out two million car wheels a year, which is a quarter of the UK’s demand that is currently being imported.
The company is also planning similar investment for car part manufacture in Birmingham.
Naturally, these and similar developments must deliver a fundamental impact on the nation’s trade balance.
The first piece of good news arrived last week when new figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that exports of goods and services hit a record high in 2017, with sales of goods up 13.4 per cent and services up 10.7 per cent – with the trade deficit narrowing significantly to £28.6bn, which is a huge £12.1bn reduction from £40.7bn.
All of this subtle but beneficial change is happening rather quietly in the background.
It runs contrary to the dire predictions given out in the referendum, and were not even part of the Leave campaign’s narrative.
The reshoring and resourcing happening in Britain is a genuine Brexit bonus. I rather suspect it shan’t be the last we never saw coming.