Brexit Britain leaps over France in world’s largest manufacturer list

Rishi Sunak praises revised economic figures

Output from the UK’s manufacturing sector surged to £224billion last year according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

While the economy as a whole ekes out only marginal growth, a new report published today by the industry trade association Make UK shows goods production is booming.

Back in the Seventies, British-made cars, aircraft, foods and chemicals accounted for a quarter of GDP. The shift towards services since has seen this share fall below ten percent.

Make UK estimates that sticking to the Government’s manufacturing target of 15 percent of GDP would add an additional £142billion to the UK economy – far more than any post-Brexit free trade agreement currently in the works.

The sector’s strong performance has meant the UK has now overtaken France as the world’s eighth-largest manufacturer, according to the latest available international figures.

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Back in 2021, UK manufacturing output came to $272billion (£218billion) – behind Italy’s $314billion (£252billion) but ahead of France’s $262billion (£210billion).

Make UK cautions, however, that while the rankings climb is “encouraging”, this is only the third year in the past two decades that the UK has been ranked above its neighbour across the Channel.

In a global context, China retained its manufacturing hegemony with output worth $4.9trillion (£3.9billion), followed by the US, Japan, and Germany.

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The trade body – which represents 20,000 manufacturers across the country – claims the sector now supports 2.6 million jobs.

On average, these jobs are paid nine percent better than average – with mean annual gross pay of £36,488 compared to £33,402 across the whole economy, or £32,676 for the services industry.

Exporters are also profiting. Total UK exports shot up by 19.5 percent over the year to June, while imports rose by 11.7 percent. As a result, the total value of annual trade is now at a record high of just under £1.75trillion.

Last month’s relatively strong 0.2 percent economic growth figures for the second quarter of the year were in large part attributed to the car industry. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the total number of cars built in the UK is on course to be 100,000 units higher this year than it was in 2022.

The latest figures from the Department for Business and Trade, however, show that cars are only the UK’s third most valuable category of exports.

Top of the list comes “unspecified goods”, described as including “non-monetary gold and other precious metals (silver, platinum, palladium), parcel post, low-value trade, coins” as well as, crucially, defence equipment.

The UK exported £43.7billion worth of these items in the 12 months to June, followed by £32.2billion of mechanical power generators and £28.8billion in cars.

To bring the UK more in line with other country’s versions of an “industrial strategy”, Make UK renewed is call on the Government for a long-term plan to turn manufacturing’s 15-percent-of-GDP ambition into reality, in the hopes of one day edging past Italy to seventh place globally.

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