04 February 2019 Business

Goodbye shouldn't mean aufwiedersehen

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, printers could be foolish if they do not look at opportunities on the Continent.

It would appear that having stepped into the quagmire that is leaving the EU, nobody in the UK has any idea of how to get out of the mess. Rather, there are plenty of people with ideas of how to get out of the morass, or with advice saying that in a few more steps we will be on the promised land, but few of these voices have the power to do anything about it. We have to watch fascinated, horrified or delighted as appropriate, as the whole drama plays out in the theatre of Westminster. It just awaits a Shakespeare to put this Latter Day Hamlet or Another Comedy of Errors on the stage.

We in the printing industry are among the audience. We rely on inks, plates, machinery and paper coming in to the UK, for the most part from the EU. Some is Japanese, though even that comes through a European head office. Paper merchants have made plans for the short term disruption, but cannot afford to build up and maintain high stock levels for the long term; likewise ink and plate suppliers and even spares for presses, folders, platesetters and the like, will be affected. There will be disruption.

Is there though an opportunity we seem to be missing? If work is likely to shift to the Continent after any kind of Brexit, should not printers go with the flow. For sure Walstead has built a network of high volume printers across central and southern Europe. But it is pretty much alone. Where are other print groups taking the opportunity, as other parts of British business are doing, of retaining a stake in the EU by buying or starting a business that remains inside its tariff-free trading borders? It will not work for all; it may not work for any; but it could be foolish to not at least take a look at what the world will look like when the EU door slams shut in two years' time.

Gareth Ward