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Ecotile and the EU post-Brexit

EcoTile Flooring and BREXIT; a message from our MD

The country is still reacting to unfolding events, as we continue to digest the implications of a post-Brexit Britain. Here our MD, James Gedye, writes about his thoughts on leaving the EU and the suprising reaction of many of our EU partners when he visited the continent, immediately after the result was announced.

“Ecotile are a UK based manufacturer of interlocking floor tiles, approximately 40% of the tiles we manufacture are exported to the EU, 10% to the rest of the world and the balance fulfills our UK orders so the vote to leave the EU potential could have serious ramifications for us.

I will freely admit that when I woke up on Friday to hear the result I was nervous. A week later and a trip around Europe meeting my customers and I have to say I feel a lot more confident about the future.

The reaction from the man on the ground in Europe (not the politicians I emphasise) could best be described as congratulatory. The Dutch, the French and even the Germans said well done for saying no to the EU bureaucrats. It is not only the UK that have issues with Brussels and Strasbourg.

So what now for our future trade and the UK economy outside of the EU?

Firstly, what will be the impact on us as an exporter? As an exporter the weakening pound is actually an advantage and makes us even more competitive. As far as I can see it, even if the EU dig in their heels and don’t want to negotiate with us the worst case scenario is that all parties will have to adopt the World Trade Organisations agreed rates of tariffs and duty.

In the case of EcoTile interlocking floor tiles that duty is 6.5%. With sterling having dropped by 7 to 8% even with the duty our customers will be better off buying from the UK.

Next, red tape, regulation and paperwork. We already export to Switzerland, Columbia, the Middle East etc. and yes, there is an additional level of paperwork we have complete but certainly not a prohibitive amount and the British Chambers of Commerce do an amazing job in helping us compete all the relevant documents. If all fails with negotiations I suspect the various chambers of commerce will have to have a massive recruitment drive to create more jobs to complete all the paperwork but that may not be a bad thing, from a strictly personal point I would much prefer to be creating jobs in the UK than paying what I suspect are much higher salaries for the hordes of MEP’s, their administrative staff and the aforementioned EU bureaucrats!

My primary concern about the our vote to leave the EU relates to our staff, about 10% of our workforce is from the EU, they are incredible, hardworking and loyal staff that are filling roles that I am sorry to say UK residents don’t want to do. Job seekers in our catchment area do not want to be machine operators, warehouse assistants etc. (please note we pay far more than minimum wage). Or where the UK residents do not have the relevant competence such as language skills, IT and specialised engineering skills. It is unfair to leave these staff hanging in limbo and I feel that the politicians should make it clear sooner rather than later what the residency status of EU passport holders already living and working in the UK will be post Brexit.

Finally, my vision of the future. The UK has always been a great trading nation and I don’t see any reason why this will change. Yes we will have to adapt and I am investigating the option of opening a warehouse and logistics facility within the EU to help us deal with any obstacles that Brexit may cause but I was considering this option pre-brexit anyway to try and improve efficiency and reduce transport costs. As the saying goes nothing is a problem just an opportunity for a solution.

The UK leaving the EU opens up the chance for us to make a real difference to what we want our country to be and to define our own future. It must be a wakeup call for the politicians who must recognise that the majority of the population has rejected the big brother approach that a federal Europe implied. Brexit will create opportunities for the entrepreneurs and innovators, it will release the shackles created by the administration and red tape created by having a second layer of administration over the UK parliament. It will help define the UK brand which is so strong across the globe. I am excited, we will do just fine as an independent nation.