Print manufacturers react to IET Brexit warnings

Max Goldbart
Friday, April 29, 2016

UK print industry manufacturers Xaar and Morgana Systems have reacted to a claim that exiting the EU would be "a wholesale risk to engineering in the UK".

The warning comes in a position statement released by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) which identified a number of risks to UK engineering associated with leaving the EU.

These included exacerbating the UK’s engineering and technology skills shortage, damage to engineering and science research, a decline in the UK’s influence on global engineering standards, losing automatic access to the EU market and needing to negotiate new independent trade agreements, it claims.

Chief executive of £93.5m-tunover global industrial inkjet supplier Xaar, which has IET members in its research and development department, Doug Edwards said his Cambridge-headquartered company's desire was for the UK to remain in the EU. 

Speaking to PrintWeek from Xaar's US offices, he said: “Our company position is that we are supporters of staying in. If you look at our company, less than 1% of our revenue comes from the UK. Europe is our biggest market; it accounts for at least 50% of revenue.”

“When you see the likes of Obama saying our presence will be diminished and we will be at the back of the line with trade deals then that level of uncertainly is not a good thing. If we ever get together with others in the industry, we do discuss this. It does come up. Over dinner it’s a conversation, especially for the companies that we deal with."

Edwards announced last month that Xaar is looking to double its turnover by 2020, increasing sales to £220m.

Finishing products manufacturer Morgana Systems director Quen Baum agreed with Edwards, although he said his company would not be taking a line.

He said: “It is quite difficult to get a strong world view on this. What we have been fed in the national press makes it hard to get a position.

He added: “We wouldn’t dream of putting a position on our staff. However, we are owned by an EU company and we export 80% of what it makes to the EU so I would say the rational thing to do is to remain."

Morgana Systems is owned by the Stockholm-based Plockmatic Group. 

Chief executive of Hertfordshire pre-media and inkjet printing manufacturer FFEI, Andy Cook is "surprised" at the IET’s stance. He said: “I’m sure this does not have 100% support from its members. I would have expected a more neutral position similar to the chambers of commerce."

The IET went on to say that, although the UK might over time be incorporated into new treaties, there would inevitably be a delay during which trade would be damaged.

Cook added: “From our own business point of view, we worry about the uncertainty the whole subject is putting on the economy and currency and would have preferred the government not to have driven the referendum in the first place. There are more important issues to tackle.”

Last week, Alex White, managing director of finishing kit manufacturer Blackman & White, also came out against Brexit, in a speech to press at the Sign & Digital UK show in Birmingham.

The EU referendum will take place on 23 June. A poll commissioned by the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) and published yesterday found the Leave campaign pulling just ahead of the Remain campaign, with 46% of the vote. It puts Remain on 44%.


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