Uncertainty is never good
Boat sales have been on a roll since last Summer's referendum with industry market leaders toasting a surge in sales in the wake of the weak pound.
However, the feel good factor of London's Boat Show in January may now be giving away to queasiness about what comes next. The short-term export gains of selling British vessels being 15 to 20% cheaper than before are likely to give way to more long-term concerns.
The industry now has to navigate itself through uncharted waters. What knock-on effect will pricier components have on overall costs? What will the customs tariffs be for exporting to Europe? Will the industry suffer from a skills shortage with the demise of the single job market?
More than a fifth of UK boat building employees are EU nationals from abroad. Polish laminators are valued for their expertise and a drain of talent post Brexit would be painful. There are also plenty of Brits working in Europe whose job security could be at risk.
Uncertainty is never good for business and this is something industry leaders are acutely aware of right now. They're rightly concerned that customers after the post referendum sales spike will now be taking 'a wait and see' approach before their next purchase.
Exports make up a third of the sector's sales with the EU market accounting for 40%. While the sector has a strong track record as a global exporter successfully courting new emerging markets, Europe still matters. The challenge will be how the Government can negotiate new trade deals swiftly which work for the industry.
It's estimated once Article 50 is triggered this month we'll be out of the Union by 2020. So the coming years will require a cool head and a calm approach for creating viable agreements.
* Barbara Buchanan is a freelance journalist.
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