How are Manchester’s Manufacturers Going to Deal with Brexit Uncertainty?

Manchester has one of the country’s strongest links to manufacturing. The city is recognised for being a global manufacturing lighthouse, with a talent base of 115,000 in the sector, home to one of the largest manufacturing centres in the UK and generating an impressive £7.4bn for the national economy. 

At this critical moment, business leaders across the North West are preparing themselves for the potential outcomes of Brexit, undeterred by the daily back and forth between Westminster and Brussels, and instead keeping heads down, and executing on carefully considered strategies. 

As an employer in Manchester, and one that is proud to serve a large number of these businesses, I often hear it is the lack of information that is hindering our manufacturers preparations for Brexit. 

The exact terms of how business will be conducted with our European partners in the future is still undefined. However, we do know that those who are successful, will be those who have visionary leadership – playing to their strengths while minimising their weaknesses. Perhaps the most immediate priority for British manufacturers (and distributors) is to understand how various Brexit scenarios may affect their supply chains and the movement of goods. Here are 5 ways businesses should be preparing for the change: 

  1. Keep goods moving – Brexit will change the rules on imports and exports to the EU, as well as how businesses transport their goods. Understanding new tariff exposures and other associated costs will help to maintain the flow of goods post-Brexit. Apply for a UK EORI number if you import from and export to the EU. Check whether you need an EU EORI number too if you import to or export from the EU.
  2. Compliance – irrespective of trade rules agrees, goods will need to be declared, with custom procedures applied and opportunities for tax/duty planning.


  1. Relationships with suppliers – if manufacturers rely on certain components, understanding how this will work after Brexit will be a priority as lead times may increase.
  1. Supply chains – understand where delays may potentially hit business. Make good use of data analytics – this could help examine how to consolidate goods and understand if warehouses need relocation. Manufacturers should also be asking their suppliers about their own plans for Brexit.
  1. Adopt new technology and innovation – Industry 4.0, is already making a considerable impact on British manufacturing. Those seeking to mitigate the risks of Brexit should bring together new technologies such as 5G, Industrial IoT, cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive productivity and efficiency, giving Manchester’s manufacturing sector the competitive edge on the world stage. 

Ultimately, preparing for Brexit through assessing supply chain, digital transformation, technology investment and investment in the right people is very similar to preparing for any other type of business challenge – finding ways to satisfy customers, create better quality products at lower costs, and making them available to as many people as possible in the global marketplace. I believe Manchester is better placed than most to benefit from this, with access to the UK’s largest regional airport, serving over 200 destinations worldwide, and a comprehensive motorway infrastructure giving its businesses the ability to access all national and international markets.