One of the bosses of a leading Ipswich-based manufacturing firm has sounded warnings over the impact of Brexit.
Tex Holdings is made up of companies specialising in plastic moulds, boards and panels and engineering, and has a £42m turnover, with 180 employees based in Suffolk.
The group’s executive director of operations David Redhead echoed the sentiments of many business leaders when he expressed being “horrified” that no decision has been made yet on Brexit. “These politicians would be kicked into touch if they were in business - we can’t sit on our backsides for two years and not make decisions about what to do in business. Of course, we can’t get every decision right but for god’s sake, get the thing done. It is so frustrating.”
Reflecting the UK’s own political split, Mr Redhead was a Remainer and his CFO Chris Parker, who is also an executive director, voted to leave the EU in the referendum.
Mr Redhead believes the indecision is impacting business sentiment, with clients saying they are going to pause projects, although Mr Parker says this indecisiveness when it comes to signing off on projects doesn’t all stem from Brexit.
“There was a project for a pier in New York - Pier 55 - they placed the order for the hammer and then had to cancel it because they then decided that they didn’t want to build it anymore, but it’s now possibly back on,” Mr Parker said. “It’s the maybes that make it difficult. If someone says yes, we will buy great, if someone says no we are not, great. ‘Maybe’ is the worst word you get.”
Tex Holdings exports its products to the Far East and the Middle East more than to Europe, but it’s the materials the company imports that will be most affected by Brexit.
The company buys raw materials for its plastic products from the Netherlands, and the edge boards for its board panels come from Europe too.
Two weeks ago, all the company’s managing directors had a tour around the Port of Felixstowe with their new chairman Chris Graham, who is the former boss of the port.
While Felixstowe’s container transportation system has been computerised for some years and will not be altered by the fallout from Brexit, Mr Parker says that where the queues of traffic are going to build up after Brexit are on the roll on/roll off ‘RoRo’ ferries from Harwich that transport lorries full of “bits and pieces.”
“At the moment, we buy our stuff using that RoRo system, and we’re going to buy instead in containers, so we can get the supplies in and out easier,” he said. “It’s a pain because its going to have to cost us more, because we have to buy a whole container load which we might use over a year - then we need to have to find storage space for it.
“Its going to be very inconvenient, but manageable.”
Mr Redhead explained that in the event of a no deal Brexit, there will be a tariff to pay too, “because we will have to go on World Trade Organisation terms”. “It would be difficult for us to absorb that,” he added.
A recent £1.7m contract to supply an air traffic control room for an Indian aircraft carrier was in negotiation for nine years, which Mr Redhead illustrates as an example of why the ability to do long term planning is so important to the company. “If we are going to supply some kit, so if one of the companies wants a big casting, it could take four months to make. If we place an order now, it will come in April. If that’s going to come in from overseas somewhere, how do I price my products? This is why we really need Brexit sorted out.”
But not everything about Brexit is a negative for the group.
One of its companies maintains two royal navy vessels which, thanks to the fisheries patrols anticipated as a result of Brexit, will now be recommissioned. “We will have a lot of work, the guys are going back for another three months next year,” said Mr Redhead. “That contract is worth in total £500,000.”