Wiltshire firms have reacted with alarm at the prospect of the UK leaving the single market and customs union, warning they face losing customers.
At wholesale gift manufacturer and distributor Fairyglass, owner Ben Biscoe said the family-run business had put all plans for exporting on hold.
“We’re concentrating on expanding our market share in the UK instead while we wait for clarity on EU negotiations,” he said.
“We’ve taken on agents to push our ranges over our competitors, and invested in systems internally and for our customers to use that make working with us simpler.”
The fast-growing Corsham-based firm operates from a 15,000 sq ft warehouse and, following the 2011 acquisition of Fairy Dust, which makes a range of fairy wings, wands and dresses, brought production from China to the UK.
It also sells its own brands to more than 500 UK retailers as well as stores across Europe and represents several leading US manufacturers.
Mr Biscoe added: “I think there are opportunities for us once we’ve left the EU, although overall I’m not in favour of leaving. I believe that leaving the customs union is a huge mistake, and one that we won’t see the effects of for several years, by which time it will be too late to do anything about it.
“We've been concentrating on our export market for a couple of years now but I think that most of the work we’ve done will go to waste. Our customers in Europe can purchase as easily from our competitors in Europe and the introduction of a tariff system, even with zero tariff payment (just paperwork) means it’s far less attractive for a retailer to purchase from a UK source unless our pricing is much more competitive.
“We can’t lower our prices more, as we’re hit in the UK with more regulatory costs, higher business rates, and far higher import costs.”
And at Chippenham specialist manufacturer Rota Val, which employs 35 people making high-quality rotary valves for sectors ranging from food and pharmaceutical to aggregates, managing director Beverley Ford said: “I feel there will be unnecessary customs burdens imposed even if extra tariffs are not. We will still have to comply with EU regulations demanded by our EU customers.Highlight
“We need to know what added administrative burden are we going to face with exports to EU.”