Issue date
17 Nov 2016

A snapshot of the regional economy following the vote to leave the European Union

Download Taking the temperature of the South West economy (PDF)

The South West TUC campaigned to stay in the EU ahead of the referendum because we thought it was the best way to protect decent jobs and rights at work. But the British people made a clear choice. The priority now is to ensure that working people don’t pay the price for the decision to leave the EU.

Even prior to the vote, Britain suffered the largest fall in wages of any developed country except Greece following the financial crisis. It’s clear that working people cannot afford another hit to their wages and their jobs.

We want a strong regional economy that creates and maintains decent well-paid jobs for everyone. We believe this will be harder outside the EU but our priority is to represent working people and to campaign to protect their interests.

We want to see the government take pre-emptive action to stop any economic showdown, calm any uncertainty and ensure that jobs, pay and rights are protected in the process of a British exit.

Statistics from the Office of National Statistics show eight per cent of jobs in the region – that’s around 250,000 people – are dependent on EU exports. This includes some of the largest engineering companies in the UK, such as Rolls Royce and British Aerospace, major automotive business with Honda in Swindon, key financial and business services, food and drink production, creative industries and the critical tourism sector.

Of these jobs, 65,000 are in distribution, transport, hotels and restaurants, 39,000 in the professional and support service sector, 23,000 in production, 8,000 in finance and insurance, and 7,000 in information and communication.

Wages in the South West already lag behind the rest of the country with average weekly pay at £410 compared to £442 for England. Regional statistics, however, mask massive differences from Torbay at £303 to Swindon at £490.

This report sets out to take the temperature of the post-Brexit South West economy and understand the emerging impacts on working people. It is too early to tell the full impact of Brexit; this will only be known after the UK formally leaves the EU and faces whatever trading relationship is established.

This briefing contains analysis of national and regional data, and includes the first post-referendum insights from the South West TUC’s panel of trade union convenors working at major private sector employers across the region. This panel is made up of senior volunteer union reps and officers who have responsibility for negotiations with employers for a significant number of staff, often across a number of unions and sites. They are an invaluable source of real grassroots intelligence Trades Union Congress Taking the temperature of the South West economy 4 about the impacts of wider economic and market changes on employees at some of the Region’s biggest companies.

Trade union representatives and officers are constantly engaged with key changes in workplaces. They negotiate pay deals, work changes and redundancies. They are involved with training and learning at work, health and safety and future planning. Most importantly their job is to give voice to the members they represent – some 500,000 workers in the South West. They are often the first to spot trends in the industries they cover and are a useful source of information about the way the economy is going.
The South West TUC plans to use this network over the coming months to track how the regional economy is doing from their perspective.