British manufacturers’ optimism about the state of the global economy is at a four-year high, a survey has revealed.
The poll by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF found 40% of factories are planning for growth in their industry this year compared with 19% who are forecasting a decline.
Sales are expected to grow in the domestic market according to 62% of firms, while 47% anticipate EU demand to rise and 51% expect a boost from markets elsewhere around the world.
The most cited risks to the outlook include a failure to agree a Brexit transition deal – including concerns about rising costs, sterling volatility and the loss of EU national workers – as well as non-Brexit fears related to cyberattacks, increased US protectionism and a sharp economic slowdown in China.
Chief executive Stephen Phipson said: “There are plenty of factors that could puncture this positive picture. Chief amongst these is Brexit which has put the investment outlook on a knife edge.
“As such, it is essential that the Government gets a transition deal as a matter of urgency and sets out with utmost clarity as to what kind of final deal it is looking for.
“In tandem with this it also needs to crack on a pace with its industrial strategy. This will be vital in providing manufacturers with the confidence to invest in strategies to improve their productivity and enter new markets.”
It is not the only survey to paint an upbeat outlook. Reasearch by Lloyds Bank also pointed to an increase in business confidence, while a separate report by accountants BDO found firms expected a boost to their order books and staffing.
However, a survey of chief financial officers by accountants Deloitte found a slight dip in optimism for the year ahead because of the continued uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“Despite December’s agreement to move forward to trade talks with the EU, CFOs’ concerns about Brexit have mounted and it remains at the top of the list of risks for business in 2018,” said Deloitte’s chief economist Ian Stewart.
“Weak UK growth follows as the second greatest risk facing business this year, with concern about UK productivity in third place.”