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UK manufacturers’ leading role in automation ‘revolution’ will be boosted by Brexit, says Liam Fox

Automation, energy efficiency and digitalisation are driving a global manufacturing revolution that British companies are at the forefront of, the international trade secretary has said.

Staunchly Euro-sceptic MP Liam Fox - one of the leading figures in the Brexit ‘leave’ campaign - has said that British manufacturers will benefit greatly when the UK leaves the European Union, due to their technological prowess.

Speaking at the EEF’s annual conference, Fox said: “From automotive to aerospace to energy and engineering, the UK is as diverse as it is deep.

“The advent of digitalisation, automation and an increasing pressure to create more energy efficient products is driving a revolution in global manufacturing.

“British companies are at the forefront. The UK composite materials sector, for example, predicts that the UK domestic market will grow six times by 2030 to some £12bn, driven by the need to create structures for energy efficiency.”

He added that the UK’s manufacturing sector is currently experiencing annual growth of 2.8 per cent, 1 per cent above the economy as a whole despite concerns over Britain’s future trading arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world.

In particular he praised the UK’s automotive sector, which remains one of the “prides” of British manufacturing.

“Last year, around 15 per cent of the total UK R&D spend was generated by automotive companies,” Fox said.

“Firms like Nissan, who have announced another £250m investment in its Sunderland plant, are here because of that access to new technology and industry developments.

“It’s no wonder that in 2017 a new car rolled off a British production line every 19 seconds. So much for not making things in Britain.”

In particular, Fox singled out the UK Government’s support for R&D spending and its desire to boost manufacturers who developing “cutting-edge” technologies.

“Many of you will be familiar with the £246m Faraday challenge designed to boost the development of battery technology,” he said.

“We have also committed £100m of spending for connected and autonomous research development for the automotive sector.

“Together with the aircraft industry, we have devoted a combined £3.9bn to R&D. This level of government support is unprecedented and demonstrates a real and sustained commitment to attract the right investment in the right areas in line with our industrial strategy.”

Fox believes Brexit will allow the UK to develop a trade policy framework “that works first and foremost for the UK economy, firms and citizens” for the “first time in more than four decades”.

“Already we are laying the groundwork for new trading relationships across Africa and Asia,” he said

“As their people become more affluent and their domestic industries more mature, demand for British manufacturing expertise will grow exponentially.

“There is a big world out there and British manufacturing can lead the charge to ensure that the people of this country can take their rightful place in that global prosperity of the future.”

In September, a report claimed that many British jobs could be rapidly automated or moved offshore as a result of labour shortages resulting from post-Brexit immigration curbs. 

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