It was tragically announced on January 4th 2018 that production of iconic Colman’s Mustard of Norwich would be moved out of Norfolk, with Unilever shifting some production being moved to Burton-on-Trent, with a large proportion being moved over to Germany, a move which, according to Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, is directly related to the government’s “disastrous” Brexit policy.
Writing on his Facebook page, Lewis states: “[This] government … has sat on its hands these past few months and in particular Business Secretary Greg Clark and Norwich North Tory MP Chloe Smith. Both have paraded themselves in local media claiming they were ‘working hard’ to ‘ensure a bright future for [Carrow Works]’ and proudly proclaimed the government was ready to back options to help keep Britvic and Unilever jobs. What did they actually achieve? Nothing.”
Greg Clark, who survived Theresa May’s recent cabinet shuffle to retain his position as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, stated that he was in ‘close contact’ with factory bosses prior to the announcement, however he failed to accept the invitation of Clive Lewis to meet and discuss a way to keep Unilever in Norwich.
Jack Peat of The London Economic has stated that both Britvic and Unilever sounded Brexit warnings shortly after the vote in July 2016, and that by shifting a proportion of production to Germany it retains access to the single market, and by shrinking operations in the UK it still retains access to the UK market, albeit being roughly one tenth of the size.
Speaking to ITV News, Clive Lewis laments: “This is terrible news. It’s an iconic brand for Norwich. I will be asking Greg Clark a number of questions, and I think the Business Secretary has questions to ask: he could have done more.”
And now, as if rubbing mustard in the wound, it has emerged that Andrew Griffiths, MP for Burton-on-Trent, has called for Norwich to be scrapped altogether from the Colman’s brand, stating it was “only be fit and proper” to have “Made in Burton-on-Trent” on Colman’s mustard jars. He has even gone as far as to suggest that he would bring up this issue with Unilever, who he is in contact with.
With the loss of both Britvic and Unilever costing Norfolk 800-1000 jobs, it seems trivial and insensitive for Griffiths to boldly lay claim to Colman’s branding, however the issue was quickly put to rest by Unilever’s vice president of supply chain, Jon Strachan, who ensured the Colman’s of Norwich branding would remain despite the move.
Uncertainty and anxiety cloud the futures of workers in Norwich. It is, however, prudent to be aware that this may be a sign of more things to come, with businesses recognising the importance of retaining access to the Single Market as Brexit talks continue.