SCOTTISH Engineering’s chief executive has lambasted a lack of “diversity of thought” on Brexit in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, and flagged the sector’s fears for the future following a major hit to activity from political and economic uncertainty.

Paul Sheerin, warning of “Hallowe’en horrors” and an increased likelihood of a no-deal Brexit on the planned October 31 departure date, also criticised the “definitely patronising” approach of Mr Johnson in dealing with European Union leaders.

And he warned engineering companies in Scotland had already “remarked on the drastically deteriorated relations with European trading partners as a result of this approach”.

He also flagged the importance of workers from other EU countries to Scotland’s engineering sector. Scottish Engineering’s latest quarterly report, published today, highlights companies’ overall dissatisfaction with the Conservatives’ post-Brexit immigration plans and sector players’ belief that Scotland should be allowed to vary from UK immigration policy to enable it to address its specific population needs.

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Mr Sheerin, writing in the industry body’s latest quarterly report, says: “Under our newest Prime Minister, the entry requirement to join the Cabinet of Government seems to require exclusively a firm belief in the values, aims and impact of Brexit, combined with a promise not to blink or think of the children if called to push through on a no-deal disorderly exit.

“Businesses of all sizes up and down the country recognise the danger of forming a management team that lacks diversity of thought, or the conviction to challenge internally, and yet this is what we will have leading UK plc at a time of unprecedented difficulty, representing an electorate that is deeply divided.”

Scottish Engineering’s survey shows renewed falls in order intake, output volumes, and incoming export business in the latest quarter, although staffing has continued to increase.

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Mr Sheerin observed that the stated policy of the Government, “at least publicly”, was that the UK was aiming to secure a Brexit deal with the EU.

However, he said: “And how have they taken steps to achieve that? At the time of writing, this has publicly amounted to writing a four-page letter stating the UK Government’s position and expectations for change from the current [Irish border] backstop.

“Again, consider the response of any smart business leader, supervisor or employee across the country when asking how a dispute is to be resolved? Imagine receiving the answer of, ‘Good news – I have written a four-page, possibly sarcastic, definitely patronising, email explaining where they have got it wrong’.”

Mr Sheerin added: “There is no evidence of softer unseen diplomacy at work, only a statement that the UK will withdraw from EU meetings that they don’t see as essential, another example of brinksmanship negotiation, which, even if successful, will ensure any future partnership maintains the trust level exhibited in the manner by which it was secured.”

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In the context of the UK Government’s white paper on immigration policy, Scottish Engineering’s survey reveals 28 per cent of companies in the sector in Scotland are reliant on workers from other EU countries, with 62% of firms declaring the potential annual salary cap of £30,000 is unacceptable. Meanwhile, 69% believe variation to UK immigration policy should be allowed to address Scotland’s needs.

Mr Sheerin said: “Our feedback to [the] UK Government is that we are deeply disappointed that the feedback given prior to the white paper seems to have been ignored, and this is underlined in [nearly] 70% of our respondents voicing the need for flexibility in immigration policy which addresses Scotland’s unique needs.”

Citing company responses, Mr Sheerin noted that, despite engineering firms’ detailed planning for a no-deal outcome including contingencies and alternate arrangements, “the stark reality is that no-deal means wasted resource to secure workarounds, added costs for zero value, and material uncertainty in business sustainability”.