BPF Highlights COVID-19 Impact on Plastics Industry’s Brexit Preparations

The Director-General of the British Plastics Federation (BPF) last week gave evidence to the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee on the preparedness of the UK plastics industry for Brexit.

Philip Law highlighted the ‘heavy’ impact of COVID-19 on industry’s ability to prepare for the end of the transition period. He said that “63% of BPF members had reported that preoccupation with COVID has hampered their ability to handle upcoming issues with Brexit.” This was through the diversion of resources to deal with business interruption issues, the introduction of additional safety measures and staff absences due to isolation. Many companies had also repurposed manufacturing to produce essential PPE.

Law added that a large proportion of the industry would be facing not only Brexit but also the additional burden of a plastics packaging tax on those producing plastics packaging not containing recyclate to the tune of 30%. This too, had been a major distraction.

A further major concern Philip Law underlined was the tariff regime to be introduced in the event of no trade deal with the EU. This would amount to a 6% duty on incoming raw materials, the majority of which arrive in the UK from the EU. The UK is a major importer of plastics raw materials. 55% are imported and some key plastics materials are not manufactured here. This would have a major negative impact on the competitiveness of the industry.

Philip Law called for a national recovery plan for manufacturing based on the development of a package of incentives to encourage foreign direct investment in the UK, delivery of the government’s green infrastructure promises and increased defence spending with all its wider spin-offs.

Philip Law’s appearance at the Select Committee follows a recent BPF survey on Brexit preparedness. The survey report breaks down by sector and company size, the main Brexit issues members are facing and outlines their readiness for 1st January 2021.

The key findings from the BPF member survey are:

  • COVID -19 has negatively impacted the ability of 63% of BPF members to prepare for the end of the transition period
  • The Northern Ireland Protocol is the area BPF members are least prepared for due to a lack of information
  • 86% of respondents already have an EORI number and a further 11% have applied for one
  • 35% have completed the UK Government’s Brexit Readiness Actions, with a further 49% in the process of completing them
  • 70% have plans to stockpile product/material, up from 49% in summer 2020

Director-General of the BPF Philip Law states:

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BPF and its members have helped to meet the challenges faced by the NHS and industries across the country.  Many BPF members have transformed and expanded their manufacturing operations, working longer and harder to ensure we can provide the protective equipment and medical supplies the UK needs. However, all this has left the UK plastics industry with a ridiculously short time to prepare for the end of the transition period.

“Government and in particular the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has provided significant support to our industry through a ready supply of information.  However, there are still a number of unanswered questions, particularly around the functioning of the Northern Ireland Protocol, ‘rules of origin’ and the application of the UKCA mark. Above all, the surreal imposition of tariffs on incoming plastics raw materials is particularly damaging and will threaten jobs. It needs to be hauled back with the greatest of urgency.”

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British Plastics Federation
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