London – UK chemicals makers are defying all forecasts of doom following last year’s Brexit vote with strong growth in production and exports and positive spending plans for the year ahead, according to Chemical Industries Association (CIA) officials.
At a press briefing, CIA economist Nick Sturgeon reported “continuing optimism” among member companies about prospects for the next 12 months and “a continuing hold-up on employment, R&D and investment.”
In terms of production volumes, chemicals have started the year 1.5% up year-on-year at the moment after negative growth in 2016, said Sturgeon, who linked this to the current favourable exchange rate for UK exporters. However, he also noted “quite positive” growth among EU chemicals manufacturers.
These trends were also reflected in the CJA’s latest quarterly business survey, with member companies particularly upbeat about prospects for next 12 months.
“We expected the optimism around sterling’s competiveness but not that it would feature so strongly in this quarter’s survey,” said Steve Elliot, chief executive of the London-based association.
Elliot went on to say that he was “a little bit surprised” by the survey findings and pointed to concerns about future investment intentions in view of the uo-coming Brexit negotiations.
For his part, Sturgeon linked optimism after the Brexit referendum to “people realising that it was not going to be the end of the world any time soon.”
The analyst concluded: “We have seen a more positive set of expectations from last year and that has included following through on existing investment plans.
“What is unclear are new investment plans. Some companies may be holding back to see how the outlook develops.”