As the UK plans to diverge from EU manufacturing regulations, new ONS figures show the impact Brexit has already had on UK businesses

New figures released by the ONS reveal UK companies’ annual rates of return have consistently fallen since the 2016 Brexit vote, with manufacturing particularly badly hit. ParcelHero warns this comes at a time when the Government’s controversial new ‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’ threatens to separate UK products from EU standards.

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures on the ‘Annual Rates of Return of Private Non-Financial Corporations’ show the considerable impact the Brexit vote has had on UK businesses. In particular, the international delivery expert ParcelHero says manufacturing companies’ rates of return fell sharply from 2016 to 2020.

Highlighting the results, ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘In 2016, the year of the Brexit vote, the gross rate of return for all Private Non-Financial Corporations (PNFCs) was 11.3% and the net 11.2%. That had dropped to 10.5% gross and 9.7% net in 2020, the latest year for which full ONS analysis has been completed.

‘Even more concerning are the specific figures for manufacturing companies’ profitability. The gross rate of return for manufacturing sector companies fell from 13.9% and the net 16.9% in 2017, the first full year after the Brexit vote, to 10.3% gross and 9.1% net in 2020.

‘These figures are bad news for struggling UK manufacturers and come in the same week that the Government prepares to give details of its controversial new ‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’. The bill will make it easier to change potentially thousands of EU-era regulations that still remain in force.

‘Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the bill will allow the UK to shape better regulations in areas, such as technology, where it is “strong”. He claims: “We won’t diverge for the sake of it, but we’re going to make sure this is the number one place to invest and do business because of freedoms that we have.”

‘ParcelHero’s concern is that this could include the first instances of British manufacturing standards separating from EU standards. We already know that, from next year, companies will be forced to adopt the controversial new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark, moving away from the EU’s long-established CE marking.

‘From toys to kettles to medical implants to boilers, many products currently manufactured or distributed in the UK and the EU are required to carry the EU’s CE mark. This shows they meet European legal requirements.

‘From 1 January 2023, the new UKCA logo will need to be displayed on many items sold in the UK.

‘In the future, many new products sold in the UK will need to have packaging, marketing and stamping changed to show they meet UKCA regulations, in case UK and EU regulations start to diverge. If UK and EU regulations differ, it is likely that the results of conformity assessment tests carried out by UK conformity assessment bodies will no longer be recognised in the EU. It won’t be possible to sell UKCA-passed products within the EU without reassessment by EU bodies.

‘The idea that British-made goods may have to meet two sets of safety regulations is a black mark against so-called “Brexit freedoms” that, in fact, look set to create significant red tape for UK manufacturers.

‘To add to the confusion, the Government now says that the UKCA marking alone will not be permissible for goods placed on the Northern Ireland market. 

‘ParcelHero’s in-depth analysis of the ongoing UK-EU trade problems and, in particular, the Northern Ireland Protocol agreement can be seen at:  https://www.parcelhero.com/research/brexit-study

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