Over the past few decades the situation of British Manufacturing has routinely come up for heated discussion in parliament, workplaces and our homes, and with very good reason. Manufacturing provides jobs, money and status for the people of our country. British communities have been forged on their manufacturing output for over two centuries. However, times have changed and Britain is no longer the proud 'Workshop of the world' it once was. The government now prides itself on a new type of manufacturing, that of services, knowledge and financial industries. Good news for some yes, however what about the skilled engineers and work forces of Tyneside, the Welsh Valleys, the North West and the two and a half million unemployed I hear you cry. Well, read on to hear what can be done, who can do it, how it can be done and why we need to make a change to our national philosophy regarding how we spend our time and money.
Two weeks ago George Osborne proclaimed that the UK economy is "turning a corner", which although offers a glimmer of hope is still incomprehensible to many people in Liverpool, Hull or Glasgow. If one takes a look at the bustling high-streets, the increasing house prices and publicised increases in jobs up for grabs it admittedly could be easy to forget the work that needs to be done. But for millions the reality is economic stability still seems further away than the resettlement of humans in outer space.
Numerous Prime Ministers over the past fifty years have sprouted similar rhetoric trying to urge people to 'Buy British', from Harold Wilson's "I'm backing Britain" campaign in 1968, to David Cameron and Vince Cable's "get-behind-British-manufacturing" campaign in 2011. However, as with much of what the government does, actions speak far more loudly than words.
It was encouraging to hear this month of the government's new commitment to businesses with £40m worth of funding promised for SME's in the next 12 months through the gateway of online marketplace MarketInvoice. This is a well-needed incentive for new and existing British businesses to develop new on-shore products and services. However, although it may help some businesses fashion an effective paddle, there are still many holes in the boat.
Foreign products are now the norm for us, whether under the guise of a British Brand or not, and it is British products which have become luxury. Currently much of British manufacturing has overseas ownership and it appears our economy is relying heavily on our financial powerhouse, the city of London. What Britain desperately needs is a new 'home-made' culture of production and consumerism based on British products, British factories and British people. The only way this culture can be realised is by the popular movement of British people away from the all-out hyper-consumerist mist which funds millions of employed people elsewhere across the world and further still, the well-publicised epidemic of sweatshops and human exploitation and, not forgetting, a fraternity of multi-billionaires.
Our modern hyper-consumerist culture has bred and is continuing to breed two factions of lazy and greedy people at the top and bottom of society sandwiching the majority of the good folk of Great Britain. A change in attitude and a popular shift to more British produce will see growth in British manufacturing, growth in quality products and growth in our economy. However, there are heavy seas to ride out first.
Last month UK Brand Directory 'Make it British' revealed that new European Commission plans could lead to 90% of UK Brands losing their 'Made in Britain' status. If legislated these plans would change the way goods are labelled so that it is the most expensive element of a product that defines its country of origin and not the country in which it was put together. This legislation is extremely dangerous to UK manufacturing. It also carries hefty fines of 10% of annual turnover for businesses ignoring the rules.
If you feel a rising sense of 'what are we still doing in the EU?' what follows is some tactically sourced manufacturing news to balance out that argument (sort of).
The troubled UK Dairy industry, particularly the cheese market, is under threat if the European Commission does not pass legislation to introduce mandatory labelling of both origin of milk and place of manufacture of imported dairy products. Currently European milk suppliers and manufacturers are cashing in on the UK mark of quality.
Whatever the European Commission decides to do, the reality is we must get behind British businesses and British produce more than ever. Our textile industry has exciting potential for growth and could provide thousands of new jobs, particularly for those already skilled workers in areas like the North West of England.
Fashion and clothes have historically been synonymous with Britain, but in the last forty years this has become reserved for James Bond films and London catwalks leaving Brits adrift in Europe's fashion rankings. Currently 90% of what we wear comes from abroad. Since the year 2000 52% of jobs in the textiles industry have gone and in 2011 alone we imported £12.5 billion more clothing than we exported. It is true that the goods-trade deficit (exports minus imports) continues to shrink and total exports of all UK goods has grown by 40% in the last five years but this does not diminish the fact that in the past thirty years the UK's manufacturing sector has shrunk by two thirds - the largest de-industrialisation of any major nation in history.
So despite total UK exports increasing and EEF figures suggesting a resurgence in British manufacturing the evidence on street level, in our shops and online strongly suggests an increasing need for a revival in UK manufacturing.
A speculative, but in my opinion realistic assumption is that when people increase their purchase of higher quality British made products for an increased cost, they will not only receive better value for product quality and lifespan but in time this price will decrease due to increases in on-shore manufacturing and the masses will all be able to afford superior quality British products whilst gaining stable employment and triggering the revival of increasingly soulless historic manufacturing communities.
For existing and new business owners there is the obvious concern of slow initial growth with on-shore manufacturing but, if consumerist habits can be changed through influential marketing and a revival in British fashion and style our manufacturing future can, and hopefully will be exciting, prosperous and world-leading.
Buy more British products.
Check out: http://madeintheseisles.co.uk/
Who can do it?
Why and what will you get?
Increase in quality of products. Increase in our economy. Decrease in unemployment.
If you are a manufacturer, entrepreneur, fashionista or you are just interested in British-made products and manufacturing be sure to visit the Best of Britannia event in Clerkenwell next month.
P.S. I am a staunch advocate of global trade and multinational corporations. I see a revolutionised British manufacturing industry operating fairly and ethically within global trade and providing the highest quality products across the world. I support products which are authentic and made by the communities who have relied upon them for hundreds, and thousands of years, from diverse communities across the globe.