The government has set an ambitious target to double UK exports by 2020. That would certainly boost growth and transform the balance of payments. Equally helpful would be reducing imports by making and providing more of the things we want for ourselves instead of importing them.
The Environment Secretary has recently said she would like to see the UK dairy industry expand its cheese, yoghurt and other added value manufacture of milk products. As someone who usually buys English cheese I know there is plenty of choice and good English product already available. Today I carefully selected UK yoghurt which was also available. It should be possible for the home grown industry to woo more domestic customers. I look forward to progress with clearer labelling without EU interference.
Homes are UK produced, but there is a wide array of components, utilities, fixtures and fittings which are imported. Maybe businesses could respond to the challenge of coming up with the perfect English or Scottish home, with a higher proportion of local materials and products included.
UK buyers seem to like buying cars imported from afar, whilst the UK industry is especially good at selling cars abroad. I have always bought an English manufactured car. I only once used a German car many years ago provided by the company I then worked for and was disappointed with the build quality and reliability. I have been satisfied with most of the English cars I have owned and impressed by many of the huge improvements they – and other overseas car industries – have achieved in recent decades in specification and performance. The UK industry could persuade more UK buyers.
Great advanced country manufacturing businesses are driven to success by great design and good technology. The UK has allowed some of its design edge to slip in textiles, ceramics, machine tools and other areas of engineering. As change is ceaseless and the digital age is anarchic in its impact on many old business models, there is still opportunity for the makers to march in bigger numbers.
One of the disappointing features of the public sector is how much it imports and how little it sells abroad. As a recent blogger has reminded us the NHS fails to bill lots of foreign visitors who receive treatment here. The nationalised railway along with the subsidised and directed private companies that form part of it import large quantities of equipment from overseas instead of basing the technology, design and production here.
Various parts of the UK public sector buy cars made overseas when there are perfectly good UK produced ones available. If I challenge this I am usually told it’s the result of EU procurement rules. Funny I don’t see German or French officials travelling around in UK made cars.