Trade Minister offers reassurance to ceramics firms over Brexit deal

Stoke South MP Jack Brereton, Trade Policy Minister George Hollingbery, and British Ceramic Confederation Chief Executive Dr Laura Cohen

Brexit has been the big talking point during a meeting between Stoke-on-Trent ceramics firms and the Trade Policy Minister.

George Hollingbery hosted a discussion for ceramics firms in the city yesterday (7 January), alongside Stoke South MP Jack Brereton.

The spoke about the industry’s priorities, including those measures the government is taking to ensure British ceramics are protected from 'dumping' - where overseas firms selling their goods at below cost price to undermine the British market.

The industry is currently protected from it by EU rules.

New trade laws are being looked at to prevent cheap knockoff products flooding the UK market, which could threaten jobs and industry locally.

Mr Hollinbery said: "The whole point of coming up here and talking to businesses individually is to understand the issues they have.

"As the government department responsible for exports, we have to ensure we do what we can to make their lives much easier and open up export markets for them.

"We want to protect that £600m of exports the ceramics industry has, and the 22,000 jobs it has - either directly or through the supply chain.

"I think the Prime Minister's Brexit deal is the one to pursue, and so does the industry, so I will be working very hard to make that happen."

The meeting took place at Valentine Clays site at Fenton.

Managing Director Alan Ault said it was good to see the government showing an interest in the ceramics industry, at a time where the future seems uncertain - ahead of the MP's Brexit deal vote next week.

He said: "Of course Brexit is a big concern to us.

"30% of our products are exporting into the EU, and another 10% worldwide.

"Hopefully following this meeting, and in the next couple of weeks, we will know exactly where we are going."

Dr Laura Cohen, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, was also part of the talks.

She has previously written to MPs on behalf of members, calling for them to support the Prime Minister's deal, and avoid a no deal 'cliff edge'.

She said: "Over half of our member's exports go to the EU, but the Minister was also interested in other countries they export to.

"He was also told how important it is to have some continuity where we have a free trade agreement which reduces the tariffs that people are paying, and makes our exports continue to be attractive."

Mr Brereton says he wants to fire up local firms, to make the most of the situation. 

He said: "It is about the long term opportunities that will come from Brexit.

"I am focused on building new trade links right around the world because we can do so much more.

"Places like South America, we don't really do any trade there." 

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