Sunderland’s Liebherr plant reveals how it’s preparing for Brexit

The Liebherr plant at Deptford, Sunderland.
The Liebherr plant at Deptford, Sunderland.
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Dozens of senior North East executives have been given an insight into how Sunderland’s massive Liebherr plant is preparing for Brexit.

More than 150 North East England business leaders were given essential advice on how to prepare their supply chains ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union at a special event organised by the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

(from left) Ralph Saelzer, James Pomeroy, Julie Underwood, Chamber, president John McCabe and Neil Warwick

(from left) Ralph Saelzer, James Pomeroy, Julie Underwood, Chamber, president John McCabe and Neil Warwick

The seminar was held to give the region’s companies a chance to find out what questions they should be asking of their own organisations.

The legal background was set out by Neil Warwick, Head of EU and competition law at commercial law firm Square One Law who set out the potential, massive implications of Brexit.

He explained about 134,000 businesses only trade with the EU at present, which means they have no tradition of using documentation to move goods or services around the globe.

“For ‘just in time’ manufacturing in particular, Brexit could be a steep learning curve, as businesses may well have very little time to master the skills needed to ensure supply chains’ operation are not compromised by red-tape,” he said.

At present it is beneficial for us to be able move some of our team between plants in the EU when there is a short-term skill gap to be quickly filled.

Businesses at the event also signalled their concern about the movement of people post Brexit.

Liebherr’s Ralph Saelzer said the firm had traditionally recruited some skilled workers from sister plants in Germany and explained what the firm was doing to address any possible downturn in the supply of staff.

“At present it is beneficial for us to be able move some of our team between plants in the EU when there is a short-term skill gap to be quickly filled,” he said.

“We have a concern about whether we will be able to do this post-Brexit.

“Our strategy has been to plan for contingencies to cope with a situation where this may not be able to happen in the future, such as upskilling existing workers and recruiting mature apprentices.”

The event also included a panel discussion with James Pomeroy, global economist at HSBC; Chamber international trade director Julie Underwood and Chamber senior customs advise Keith Robe, who joined the other speakers to answer business queries.

The panel made clear the support that is available from around the region on how to export to other countries, outside as well as in the EU, and the advantages of becoming an Authorised Economic Operator, to eradicate some possible trading problems.