Coatings sector warns of Brexit risks

A survey conducted by the British Coatings Federation (BCF) has revealed some significant concerns of the coatings sector regarding the economic and regulatory landscape post-Brexit.

The survey revealed that the majority of coatings companies see Brexit as a risk, rather than an opportunity, with specific concerns surrounding both tariff and non-tariff barriers. Without free trade or the alignment of UK and EU chemical regulations, 10% of companies said they would consider moving their coatings manufacturing business operations to mainland Europe. Serious concerns were also revealed surrounding additional customs bureaucracy and availability of raw materials.

Some 65% of respondents were UK-owned SMEs, and not surprising given the fact that the UK is a net exporter of coatings and printing inks. Eighty six per cent of companies confirmed that trade with the EU is important to their businesses, with only one third saying that free trade agreements with the rest of the world would be beneficial.

The BCF, along with other trade associations in the chemical supply chain, recently met with representatives from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for International Trade to discuss the survey results and urge government to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for UK and foreign companies to manufacture paints, coatings, printing inks and wallcoverings. During the meeting, officials recognised the importance of the chemical industry supply chain to the UK economy and the challenges around aligning chemicals regulations post-Brexit.

Tom Bowtell, chief executive of the BCF said, ‘Over three quarters of our members said that a separate UK chemical regulatory system would be bad for business. Maintaining regulatory equivalence with key EU regulations (REACH, CLP and BPR) through continued relations with institutions such as the European Chemicals Agency is essential to ensure we have a strong UK manufacturing base that can import chemical raw materials from Europe, and export finished goods such as paints, coatings printing inks and wallpaper without being at a competitive disadvantage.’