British businesses fear Brexit changes will add to rising costs this year, a poll has found.
A survey of 228 firms by industry body Make UK and professional services network PwC found that more than half (56 per cent) were concerned that Brexit would continue to impact business costs, with the most prominent worries being custom delays due to import checks and changes in product labelling.
A similar proportion (58 per cent) said they were concerned about access to labour, skills and talent in 2022, with almost nine in 10 companies admitting they were worried not only about losing skills from their business but also their sector as a whole.
Last year, the Office for National Statistics reported a 20-year high in job vacancies across the UK, with 1.1 million vacant roles between July and September 2021. The manufacturing and service industries were the worst hit.
However, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of industry bosses are hopeful that conditions will improve this year, according to the 2022 MakeUK/PwC senior executive survey. The same number said they believe that the opportunities for their business outweigh the risks.
Some 35 per cent of firms are planning to counter supply chain issues by using British rather than international suppliers, while almost a third (31 per cent) said they were planning to relocate some of their production back to the UK.
Additionally, despite rising costs, 45 per cent said they still planned to invest in apprenticeships in 2022, which would help counter recruitment issues.
Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson called on the government to “fully commit” to supporting the manufacturing sector both at home and abroad.
“This requires more than a plan for growth but a broader industrial strategy that sets out a long term vision for the economy and how we are going to achieve consistent economic growth across the whole country,” he said.
He added: “While clouds remain on the horizon in the form of rapidly escalating costs and access to key skills, the outlook is more positive for those that remain adaptable, agile and innovative.”
Cara Haffey, PwC’s UK industrial manufacturing and automotive leader, said: “Despite facing an unprecedented combination of continued Covid pressures, cost inflation and supply chain issues, our manufacturers are responding with an impressive amount of agility and resilience, which will stand them in good stead for the year ahead.
“They have learned valuable lessons about their supply chain vulnerabilities and the resilience needed to respond to unforeseen international or domestic risks, and are strengthening their businesses digitally as well as continuing to focus on talent and skills.”
The Independent has approached the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for comment.