UK industry wants better strategy and EU ties from next government, Make UK says

A pedestrian carrying an umbrella walks along the River Thames in view of City of London skyline in London

By Andy Bruce

(Reuters) - Britain's manufacturers want the next government to deliver a formal industrial strategy and forge closer trade ties with the European Union, according to a survey published by the sector's own trade body on Monday.

Make UK said these two issues were top priorities for a majority of the more than 300 manufacturing companies it surveyed last month, with 69% wanting a credible industrial strategy and 54% seeking stronger EU trade ties.

Britain's government last set out a formal industrial strategy in 2017 and in 2021 brought policies on infrastructure, skills, trade and net zero into a less sector-specific plan for growth.

Opinion polls show the opposition Labour Party is the clear favourite to win the July 4 national election. It plans to introduce an Industrial Strategy Council and align trade policy with the needs of industry.

Make UK's survey showed optimism and hiring intentions rising in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for just under 10% of British economic output.

"At long last, manufacturers can see concrete signs of growth and a much better economic outlook ahead," said James Brougham, senior economist at Make UK.

"With prices cooling and, potential cuts in interest rates to come, the next government must capitalise on this scenario by delivering a modern, long term industrial strategy which goes beyond the 2030s and has cross government support."

Improving Britain's poor trade performance will be one of the next government's priorities.

British exports of goods and services combined have fallen in volume since the end of 2019 - when the last election took place - unlike in any other Group of Seven advanced economy.

Business surveys indicate Brexit has hurt trade flows and investment, although exports to non-EU countries have also been weak - something that has puzzled economists.

Make UK said its survey showed "strong support" among manufacturers for improved trade terms with the EU, which came into force three years ago.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by David Milliken)