How Brexit could affect the engineering industry

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There are great concerns about the potential effect of Brexit on the engineering industry, particularly in regard to free movement of engineers and scientific research funding.

On Thursday June 23, Britain voted with a 52 per cent majority to leave the European Union. With the exception of London, all regions voted to leave, including Britain’s engineering heartlands.

Those in the industry are concerned about the future of engineering in the UK. President of the Institute of Engineering and technology, Naomi Climer has noted that there is already an engineering skills shortage in the UK and Brexit could augment this.

“At a time when we have a huge shortage of engineers, limiting the number of professional engineers that could come and contribute to our economy would affect the industry and the nation’s financial wellbeing,” she said.

Industry experts also note that tariffs will effect the amount of industrial imports and exports the UK is able to make.

However, it is believed that the research sector will take the biggest hit.

“Science is an area where the relationship between the UK and the EU was particularly beneficial,” said Sarah Main, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering.

“Not least because scientists won billions of pounds of research funding for the UK. In addition, free movement of people in the EU made it easy for scientists to travel, collaborate and share ideas with the best in Europe and for companies and universities in the UK to access top talent from Europe.”

Other European countries are also concerned about the effect of Brexit on their engineering industries. In Germany for example, the mechanical engineering industry’s fourth-largest foreign market was the UK. Industry experts believe that this will change due to the aforementioned trade restrictions.

Furthermore, according to the German Engineering Association (VDMA), Brexit will cause industrial investors to doubt Europe as a whole.

“Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU is a warning signal for companies,” said VDMA’s chief executive, Thilo Brodtmann.

“It won’t be long before our machinery exports to the UK start to fall off noticeably [and] it is completely unclear what will happen to companies with UK subsidiaries. Europe’s companies need security to plan ahead, [as well as create] a reliable roadmap for the exit. The EU must now contain the damage.”