MANUFACTURING accounts for 11 per cent of the South West’s economy and 245,000 jobs in the region, research has found.

A report from Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, and the accountancy and business advisory firm BDO, says the sector is still an increasingly important part of the region’s economy.

It also says the European Union is still by far the most important market for the region’s exports. Make UK says it is vital to secure a barrier-free trade deal with the EU by the end of the year.

The report, which analysed industry in the UK regions over the past year, found the South West took a hit from the global downturn and Brexit uncertainty even before Covid-19 hit.

However, the impact on output and orders was not as severe as in other UK regions, due to the growing importance of the region’s food and drink sector.

It found the region’s exposure to a downturn in aerospace could damage its prospects in the near to medium term.

Jim Davison, region director for Make UK, said: “The report shows that industry continues to have a central role to play in the success of the South West economy.

“There are well documented challenges going forward, not least the major impact of Covid-19 and the global economic downturn, the results of which are likely to be felt for some time.

“Furthermore, the outcome of trade talks with the EU and US has the potential to have an impact on the future performance of manufacturers in the Region given the exposure to both markets. If we are to avoid a double whammy hit on the sector it is essential that the UK agrees a trade deal in particular before the end of the year that prevents barriers to trade and avoids tariffs.”