Chemical companies across the UK are battling through the pandemic and the threat of a Brexit no deal. In the latest quarterly survey of the Chemical Industries Association, businesses saw a modest expansion with the sales diffusion index reaching 55.4 and export growth to non-EU countries registering 56.5 (any figure above 50 represents growth). The overall performance index was 51.5, beating forecasts. Despite new Covid restrictions, the increases in sales and exports are predicted to continue into the final quarter of the year. Looking out to 2021, 57% of chemical businesses expect to see sales climb further, with more global export growth anticipated.
The resilience of the industry is perhaps best summed up by the fact that a massive 98% of companies have no plans to utilise any of the Chancellor’s Winter Economic Plan support measures. Any prolonged impact from the latest Covid restrictions may see some reduction in this number. The industry also feels, that from a business angle, there has been access to adequate levels of government support, including non-financial, throughout the crisis. Those who did not mainly felt more support was needed around test and trace and clarity of business restrictions.
Steve Elliott, Chief Executive of the Association said, “this performance shows the strength of chemical businesses in adapting to pressures from all angles. Since March, the industry has continued to deliver essential solutions for society such as hand sanitiser, PPE and, most recently, an exciting contribution to the vaccine breakthrough to help fight coronavirus. I am proud of what our companies are doing and the resilience and flexibility being shown by the workforce. We have the strictest workplace standards in place and chemical industry workers have been diligent in following these and contributing to our robust performance”.
He continued: “we are still far from out of the woods. Further and necessary Covid restrictions may impact negatively and the looming threat of a “no” or inadequate UK/EU trade deal remains. Avoiding tariffs, minimising customs and border delays and securing a cost-effective agreement on our future EU and UK REACH requirements are all critical outcomes from the current negotiations.”
He ended: “at a time when the government has had to borrow over £208 billion in the six months between April and September 2020 - more than the previous 51 months combined – our industry’s steady performance through these crises has been an outstanding achievement ”
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