Brexit: Suzanne Blaustone, CEO Barton Marine
Suzanne Blaustone, chief executive of marine deck hardware supplier, Barton Marine, is very unhappy that Brexit has created an uneven playing field for UK manufacturers.
She says the referendum vote was not clearly laid out for voters to understand the implications and “many people voted to leave the EU without a realistic knowledge of what would happen to the UK and how the vote would affect their livelihoods.”
Brexit has increased the workload for Barton Marine. “Given the dishonourable political situation that continues to grate on all of us,” says Suzanne, “operating a business in this vacuum of ambiguity is unprecedented.
“Our global customers have rightfully asked us to create a Brexit strategy so they know how we are planning to supply in Europe without affecting delivery and pricing schedules.”
She adds that since there is still no unilateral Brexit plan due to UK and EU political posturing, businesses have to come up with several contingency plans that can be put directly into place as and when needed.
“This time-consuming activity on both sides of the Channel has taken focus away from the important aspects of running day to day business.”
In addition to Brexit-related issues, Suzanne says that Trump’s tariff wars has led to the EU following suit with tariffs on Asia that will affect Barton’s raw material costs: “Given that the UK does not make most of the raw materials we need for manufacturing, the only benefactor of EU tariffs will be EU, which could affect the competitive edge for UK manufacturers given the higher prices and exchange rate variables.”
On a positive note, Suzanne says her EU customers are concerned but are encouraged by Barton’s contingency plans for a successful transition that includes the creation of a separate EU facility and to incorporate abroad – “we’ve opened euro and dollar bank accounts and we’re preparing for logistic changes that affect passage of trade through borders. Our raw material strategy will help us to hold pricing as much as possible, but it’s shameful that Brexit will take jobs and profits abroad rather than maintaining wealth in Britain.”
As to how Brexit will affect the marine sector in the future? Suzanne has no idea… and nor does anyone else she reckons. “We are a resilient lot though,” she says, “and I suspect the marine trades will find ways to manoeuvre the predicaments that are placed in our way. My hope is that UK manufacturers will discover ways of cooperation and partnership that will strengthen us all.”
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