< Tim Pollard | 04.07.2017 |

Nothing to report

Nothing to report

They say predicting the future is a fool’s game, and this certainly holds true for Brexit. But the fundamentals of the industry are unlikely to change.

The editor suggested that the basis of my column in this edition should be Brexit. Well, two points – first, I am completely ‘brexhausted’ with the subject already, and the negotiations haven’t even started. Second, I would have to be mad to speculate as to the outcome, of which even the most knowledgeable commentators are steering clear.

I was reminded of how pointless speculation can be during the media coverage prior to the prime minister’s unexpected announcement of a general election. Clearly, the
media had been told to expect an announcement and to get to Downing Street pronto.

On the BBC news, a commentator was asked if an election announcement was imminent. The reply was: ‘I don’t know, it could be anything.’ We then moved to ‘the man on the spot’ in Downing Street who said: ‘I know nothing, I know nothing.’ He then asked a press expert at the scene who said: ‘Well, I know nothing either.’ If only we had such candour from all the so-called experts invited to speculate about future events.

What can I tell you about Brexit that you don’t already know? That it will take a long time, there will be no winners and the rhetoric will be widespread? What I can say is that the plumbing and heating industry has many suppliers that are parts of large European groups. In addition, the UK workforce in our industry has a significant number of citizens from other European nations. Any issue which affects the economy and consumer confidence will have an impact on business – large, medium or small. Genius, eh?

In short, I don’t know what effect Brexit will have on our industry and nor does anyone else. We have no reference point since it has never happened before. In fact, the best advice I have heard from an expert is that we should be extremely wary of using the evidence of the past to forecast the future. However, what’s the use of an opinion piece without an opinion?

So here are my predictions of the issues that will be prevalent in our industry, regardless of EU membership. Performance and specification standards are likely to remain internationally based, and the vast majority of regulations in our sector that have come out of Brussels are likely to remain in force in the UK for the short to medium term.

Climate change and energy challenges aren’t going away, and most current agreements are made at a global level with national targets enshrined in UK law. This will continue to affect the long-term strategy for UK heating in the search for lower carbon alternatives and greater energy efficiency. As we become increasingly dependent on imported fuels, the price of energy may rise, but a global market is subject to many influences.

The industry will be no less dependent on international investment. Anyone in doubt should check out the ownership of the leading industry manufacturing brands or our principal energy suppliers, and you will soon understand the situation. Any products using components from overseas may suffer from price rises if trading arrangements are altered and the relative strength of currencies is affected.

Finally, if the free movement of people is affected there will certainly be increased difficulty in recruitment for some industries and in some geographical areas.

But what I can say with some degree of certainty – and much dismay to millions of children across the UK – is that the availability of Brussels sprouts is likely to remain unaffected.

Tim Pollard is head of sustainability at Plumb Center. Follow Tim on Twitter @leamingtonSBC

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