Rule Britannia: firms bet on British allure to get by Brexit

LONDON (AP) — Tim Barlow pushes a green stamp onto the edge of an unfinished plate, leaving behind the words “Made in England.”

It’s still a piece of unglazed gray clay, a far cry from the gleaming decorated disc of Wedgwood Jasperware it will become, but Barlow and his employers are betting those words will be a selling point as Britain begins the process of leaving the European Union.

“It takes on a greater importance now we’re coming out of Europe,” he says, matter-of-factly. “We’re standing on our own now.”

It’s not just Wedgwood, the 258-year-old firm that has supplied tableware to Britain’s royal family, the Kremlin and the White House. Companies ranging from luxury clothes maker Burberry to Bee Good, a small business making products from British bees, are hoping to make virtue out of necessity by promoting British identity as a selling point.

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For some, like Wedgwood, it can mean appealing to foreign visions of a stereotypical Britain: the traditional, classy culture of high tea and garden parties. For others it’s a bet that consumers around the world recognize the quality of British workmanship and are willing to pay a premium for it.

The question is important for British business if, as expected, Brexit leads to tariffs and other barriers to trade with the EU, the country’s biggest export market. Exports of goods and services account for about 27 percent of the British economy, with almost half of exports going to the EU.

The government is trying to bolster overseas trade with a five-year program designed to help 100,000 new exporters sell goods and services abroad. The Exporting is Great website lists potential buyers including online retailers in China looking for U.K. jewelry and housewares, a Japanese company interested in British raincoats and Wellington boots, and a Turkish importer seeking British cosmetics.

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