Tunbridge Wells export firm calls for industry input in Brexit negotiations

Tunbridge Wells export firm calls for industry input in Brexit negotiations

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Paul Fleming TEK Group
Chief Executive Paul Fleming

The owner of one of the largest exporters in Tunbridge Wells has described post-Brexit ­Britain as presenting an ‘exciting opportunity’ for his company – so long as the process is handled well.

Paul Fleming, Chief Executive of TEK Group, said he had been ‘hugely disappointed’ by the lack of hard facts and the abundance of political rhetoric from both sides prior to the vote and criticised some of the ‘main antagonists’ for ‘jumping ship’ afterwards.

However, Mr Fleming – whose family-run businesses recently designed 2,000 seats for a military contractor in Abu Dhabi and made seating for a vehicle used by the Dutch Special Forces – remains upbeat about the UK’s prospects.

He said: “As a UK business owner we now have to work with what we have. It is potentially an exciting opportunity if managed properly by our politicians and civil servants, hopefully with significant input from industry.”

TEK Group, through its three divisions – TEK Seating, SitSmart and TEK Military Seating – imports products from Europe and the US for distribution throughout Britain and also ­manufactures its own products within the UK for export worldwide.

This means the company is particularly exposed to fluctuations in the exchange rate, which has both upsides and downsides for the firm’s profitability.

Mr Fleming explained: “The short-term volatility with exchange rates has had an obvious ­negative effect on our euro and US dollar suppliers, while our sterling exports are more attractive.”

He added: “We export our products worldwide with our largest market currently being the Middle East, followed by Europe.

“The exporting process outside of the EU is a relatively straightforward operation even with the additional red tape and export licence requirements for our military products.”

Although it is early days, Mr Fleming does not foresee Europe ‘pulling down the shutters’ on UK trade, stating it would be ‘more fool them’ if they do. but he called for ‘cool heads’ during upcoming negotiations.

“It is time for careful planning to make sure we position ourselves in the worldwide market place to our very best advantage.

“I think the medium to long term is looking very positive, but there will be a bumpy ride before we get there.”