The UK is too dependent on global markets. Join the YouK Campaign and support UK jobs and businesses, local communities and public services. Buy British Made goods.
Times of crisis often brings new clarity, and it is clear that the UK has become too dependent on globalisation. We have some of the best medical research facilities in the world. However, we don’t have a capable medical diagnostics industry. Modern ventilators have their roots in a patent taken out by William White, in 1794 London, yet our hospitals depended on other countries producing them.
This time the crisis is medical in nature, but what of other globalisation risks? For example, we import 47% of our food. As a result, if we suffered a blockade, crop failures, oil crisis, war, the impact could potentially be huge.
As well as being risky, too much globalisation has two permanently operating economic outcomes; it exports jobs that would otherwise have been carried out here, and it pumps money out of the country, weakening our public finances and undermining the funding of education, schools and hospitals.
Added to that the ecological cost is huge – a massive increase in our product miles: we are long used to container ships, but in June we have seen the arrival of the first Ultra Large Container Vessel in the UK – 1,312ft long by 200ft wide, with densely packed containers stacked 8 high above deck alone.
On average 1 in 2 containers leaving Britain is empty.
Image: HMM Algeciras arrives in the UK. Sky News.
Rebalancing our economy to be less global does not mean being anti-globalisation. Worldwide trade has worked miracles in lifting billions out of poverty and we cherish goods from all across the world. But it’s an issue of balance.
More localisation, buying what we make and produce, is better for the economic and environmental wellbeing of everyone living here.
One economic theory is that buying rather than making, when someone else can do it more efficiently, makes sense. This is fair enough, but taken too far it can lead to the complete loss of critical capabilities and a reduction in British made goods. Modern economies depend on innovation, new ways of making and delivering products and services. As a result, the knock-on effects of losing a capability can be huge. Take machine tooling; some potential products or new businesses that could build on that skill set – such as robotics – don’t emerge, and innovation withers. A classic positive example of the benefits of retaining capability is Dyson. Their research strengths, designing sophisticated household goods, could quickly be applied to ventilators.
So what role can each of us play? We have lived in an era during which we have not been deeply concerned about where things come from. We cannot afford that anymore: in terms of jobs, in terms of security, in terms of the environmental impact. Things have to change, and the time for change is now.
Join the YouK campaign
Our consumer imports are the direct result of millions of individual purchasing decisions which we are in control of. The YouK campaign is based on three simple ideas:
“made in the UK” is rarely a simple proposition
There are many factors in “British made”: research and design, the source of input materials, location of manufacture, make or part-assemble. Purchasing goods which meet these criteria, rather than purely imported goods, will make a positive contribution to the UK. For example, Makita is a Japanese company, but its Telford manufacturing plant is the only full-production power tools facility in the UK. So buying their products, including the ones not made here, supports UK jobs, UK corporation tax, national insurance payments. Furthermore, it supports a myriad of local Telford services such as their office cleaners and plumbing suppliers. Another important point is that the design element in non-food goods provides the most economic benefit. Such as over-the-counter medicines, designer clothes or innovative appliances.
And local means from the farm or small business in the town next door first, then anywhere local in the UK. For food, there are obvious advantages such as provenance and freshness, and farm shops offering ‘direct to consumer’ are either close by or with online delivery.
There are also major ecological benefits – 47% of food we import comes at the cost of multiplying our food product miles by ten! The same for UK landed fish, where the scandal is that we export 70% of the fish we catch and then import 75% of the fish we eat. Is it possible to think of anything more ridiculous as an emblem of “too much global” – a pointless two-way motorway of fish hitching a circular ride on giant containerships?
But many, many other products are also local: skincare, furniture, shoes, tools or cars. It is a complete falsehood that nothing is British made anymore. It just doesn’t have a champion.
Finally, make this your mission, you can be the champion. Only you can change this. How? Make sure you consider British made options first for anything you want to buy. From ginger biscuits, yarn, brie, hybrid bikes, world-class sparkling white, rugby scrum machines, headache tablets, toasters and stilettos.
Your shopping choices can change the UK.
Author: Derek Poots, Founder of YouK