Feature News — 28 March 2018
  • 65 percent are not planning on analysing immigration scenarios and the potential impact on the workforce
  • 74 percent recognise that immigration is needed to fill the skills gap
  • 40 percent have no plans to communicate with employees about Brexit impacts
  • 53 percent are not planning to compare costs of EU and non-EU suppliers
  • Nationally, fewer businesses than a year ago believe the UK will be strong enough to be independent post-Brexit.

Businesses in the West Midlands reveal that their Brexit preparations have stalled, according to research conducted by Shakespeare Martineau.

Two thirds of the 160 businesses surveyed are not planning on analysing immigration scenarios and how it could impact the workforce in a post-Brexit Britain, despite 75 percent recognising that the continued flow of skilled foreign workers into the UK is required to fill the skills gap. Surprisingly, two fifths of businesses have no plans to communicate with employees about the challenges or effects they are likely to face after March 2019.

Other areas have also not been given consideration by the region’s leaders. More than half of business owners have not compared costs of EU and non-EU suppliers and 39 percent have no plans to analyse different trading possibilities.

Nationally, UK businesses are less convinced than they were a year ago that Britain will be strong enough to operate independently after Brexit – a sign that the prolonged uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU has eroded business confidence – 60 percent think the UK will be strong enough to operate independently after Brexit, down from 73 percent a year ago.

Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead, senior partner at Shakespeare Martineau, said:

“It is clear that the current information vacuum that exists around Britain’s Brexit plans is leaving business leaders feeling poorly equipped to make clear decisions about their investments and operational activity. While this is understandable, there are some areas that businesses can focus on now – including reviewing their employment profile, supply chain agility and responsiveness to regulatory change.

“As 77 percent have not experienced any change to trading with the EU so far, it could be that the impacts of Brexit have yet to materialise. Focusing on Brexit preparedness now, will help businesses move quickly when further detail is released.”

Businesses in London are more likely than those in the West and East Midlands to have moved or planned to move business operations away from the UK; 25 percent, 13 percent and 7 percent respectively.  Whilst a relatively modest number, this finding is significant because such investments are likely to be focused on pursuing growth or market opportunities.

Andrew Whitehead, continued: “With a large proportion of local businesses operating in the manufacturing, transport and logistics and automotive industries, it isn’t as easy to uproot the business and move to a different location. The loyalty to the local marketplace is testament to the confidence that owners feel in their business models, however, reviewing the scenarios that Brexit may present could give businesses the competitive advantage further down the line. Now with the appointment of the Metro Mayor and greater collaboration between respective LEPs, we are likely to see more joined up thinking with regards to Brexit across the region.”

A primary concern for life after Brexit is access to skills – 74 percent of West Midlands businesses leaders are concerned that immigration will still be needed to fill skills gaps after Brexit.

Andrew Whitehead, added: “The West Midlands prides itself on being an international region and employers must assess their workforce profile to understand their reliance on EU workers. Employers are now having to get creative with attracting and retaining their talent to ensure that there are no gaps in supply or business operations. This must consider the potential budget requirements for upskilling the existing workforce or the immigration fees to keep overseas employees.

Andrew Whitehead, concluded: “The West Midlands is a hive of activity, now more than ever, and Brexit will not be a barrier to its success. I have no doubt that local business leaders will respond, move forward and flourish.”

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