Britain’s manufacturers have ended the year at a “standstill” amid ongoing political uncertainty and a downturn in major global markets, new research suggests.

A survey of more than 330 companies indicated they will only ramp up investment when the “direction of travel” over Brexit becomes clear.

The study suggested that total orders for manufacturers had ground to a halt and were “way down” from the peaks of 2017.

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Manufacturing group Make UK said one in four of companies view increasing investment allowances as the main priority for the new government, with a fifth wanting cuts in corporation tax.

Manufacturers’ confidence in the economy has picked up slightly but this is likely to have been influenced by a no-deal cliff edge being avoided at the end of October, said the report.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, said: “Uncertainties about the outcome of Brexit and the impending general election continue to weigh on the UK manufacturing sector but the build-up to Christmas has brought a much needed boost.

“Firms are reporting weaker business activity overall, especially from the domestic UK market, but export orders have increased slightly this quarter, indicating greater confidence from foreign customers about purchasing UK goods as concerns about an end-of-year no-deal Brexit fade.

“Manufacturers will hope that the next 12 months will see a return to Westminster focusing on critical issues such as delivering a long term vision for the economy.”

Tom Lawton, head of manufacturing at BDO, which helped with the research, added: “Investment levels have slightly improved this quarter following a series of declines since the start of the year.

“While this is positive, and possibly a sign that the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is less of a short-term worry, firms are still facing an uphill battle.”

Press Association

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