A Body Blow for Black Country Manufacturing
The Newcastle Chronicle Live (9 August 2017) reported that North East business and political leaders have hit out at a Brexit-supporting economist after he admitted leaving the EU would “mostly eliminate manufacturing”.
Professor Patrick Minford has been accused of “sacrificing jobs and livelihoods in the region” after saying an exit from Europe would leave Britain “mainly” with industries such as design and marketing.
The Black Country has much in common with the North East. We've seen, not an elimination, but certainly a steep decline in a number of areas of manufacturing.
The result, decades on, is still a sense of loss and a hollowing out of communities. Thanks to investment and the energy of people dedicated to the regeneration and growth of the area, service jobs - design, marketing and retailing - have been established. But nothing replaces the sense of community, pride, achievement and creativity which once went with the heavy manufacturing of this area. Not that many steel workers retrained for careers in design and marketing.
The Black Country is still a centre of high value manufacturing, but many of the items which are made here rely on EU supply chains, and may then be sent to be assembled into completed products in Europe. At some point, perhaps quite soon, manufacturers will take the easiest course. Work currently done in the Black Country will be moved to the Ruhr, central Bulgaria or any one of the better connected, tariff free, common standard industrial areas in Europe. Why cross the Channel several times and take things into and out of the EU?
Thanks to its people, the Black Country has done, and is doing, wonders in the long process of recovery. The innate skills and determination of people and communities have secured high levels of inward investment. Now this is all at risk. We cannot take another body blow.