Ed’s view: Deja vu all over again

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Well I don’t know about you, but all this political uncertainty definitely makes me feel like I’m trapped in an unending election nightmare scenario.

The announcement of yet another ‘biggest decision in a generation’ general election means that there’s one more joker in the pack for the business landscape in the UK, and this will of course affect the catering equipment supply chain as much as any other sector of Britain plc.

Already on the day that Theresa May surprised the country with this decision we saw the Pound wildly fluctuate – and who knows how it will fare in the months to come, with the rollercoaster twists and turns of the campaign until 8 June.

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If Sterling sinks lower, will we see catering equipment manufacturers and suppliers (reliant on imported components or products) once again raise their prices? Or have the increases from the turn of the year been enough to offset any further turbulence? As always, time will tell.

Conversely, if the exchange rate starts to rocket, I can’t imagine that prices will reduce much or at all in line with this.

And aside from the currency issue, there’s the consideration of what a possible new government could bring to the table. If the current polls are correct and the Conservatives sweep to victory with an increased majority, does this mean that they will pursue a different type of Brexit?

CESA in particular is already in talks with this government about how to maintain the UK catering equipment sector’s strong voice in Europe, especially via EFCEM. Therefore a change of personnel, even within the same political party, could filter down as far as this, with a different overall attitude adopted when dealing with our industry.

A weakened stance in Europe could affect everything from testing standards input to export tariffs. While Brexit means that British businesses in general will be looking to bolster exports globally, we must still take account of the fact that around 44% of all UK exports go to EU countries at the moment.

Even if that figure reduces as companies adopt a more widely international export policy, those numbers are not going to go away overnight. New trade agreements and supply chains will take time to set up. In all likelihood this will affect the UK catering equipment industry as much if not more than other sectors, as a net importer.

It would seem that at the moment it’s a very good time for distributors, suppliers and manufacturers to do some contingency planning to cover all eventualities.

But for now we have to batten down the hatches again and ride through this next political storm, in the hope that the situation will become more settled after the election. With the seismic changes that have happened over the past couple of years, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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