Unchartered political waters

21 June 2016

In just a few days we’ll know the result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership.

The polls have suggested support for the Leave campaign has strengthened and a Brexit is a real possibility compared to a few months ago.

It really is no understatement to say this is one of the momentous votes in recent decades and which is likely to shape our destiny as a nation in the coming years and also the EU itself.

Just about everyone and his dog has done a survey on this subject, including TTJ.

The Timber Trade Federation’s recent poll among the trade shows overwhelming support – 76% – for staying in the EU.

Some 80% of the CBI’s members think remaining in the EU is best for business, while UK Construction Week’s survey shows the UK construction industry in favour (57%) of Remain.

So, business has been quite clearly in favour of staying in, but the picture is less clear-cut with the public.

The truth is no-one, not even the best economic sages, really know what is going to happen should the UK vote to leave the EU.

I’ve come to the conclusion that with so much misinformation and uncertainty it’s probably best to vote according to your own conscience. If high levels of immigration, concern over the UK’s sovereignty/EU mission creep and fears about being dragged down by Euro-zone economic fallout is important to you then you are probably more closely-aligned to the Leave camp.

However, if being outside a strong alliance of nations in this new global age and fear of economic fallout without the EU safety net is a big concern then you’ll probably want to keep the status quo.

In an ideal world, it would be good if either a Leave or Remain vote resulted in little negative change.

The trouble is we are in unchartered waters and if history is anything to go by, we’ll be in for a few surprises along the way.

We’ll be getting some timber industry feedback on the result in the next issue of TTJ.

In this issue, our Swedish region market update shows that softwood sawmills in Sweden have been successfully raising prices in 2016 and the market supply/demand situation is more in balance.

Mills have hinted that a further weakening of the pound after a Brexit could lead to further price increases. Growth in Sweden’s timber exports to China is again proving an interesting market dynamic and as one contact said: “Trade with China is only going to increase.” We also bring the latest machinery news from the Xylexpo show in Milan and cover kilning developments in this month’s sector focus.

And Sally Spencer’s interview with former Jewson boss Peter Hindle in this month’s Face to Face provides a fascinating insight into his merchanting career.