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Skilled worker shortage hits all sectors, so we move to where the labour is.

If you follow us on social media, you will know we had planned to bring two more people over to the UK from the highly regarded Liegé gun making school in Belgium. Well after 4 months of wrangling with the Immigration service and at great cost to us, we have given up. It is never a ‘no’ when going through the application process, it is more like a process of torture and finally death by a thousand papercuts. It gets to the point where it is a case of enough is enough, you get sick and tired of the hoop jumping, system failures and the bureaucracy which makes no sense at all.

This issue was heatedly debated and discussed in the recent CBI conference in Birmingham, even Tony Danker (Chief Exec of the CBI) gave an interview to the BBC highlighting the issues. Typically the government responds with some well thought out rhetoric conjured up by another spin doctor. Yet, again no action is taken. The message from the career politicians is ‘we want to put our economy in overdrive blah blah blah’ but they refuse to make the changes to give business the environment to thrive. Is it a refusal? Or is it engineered or just incompetence?

I personally do not think it is incompetence at all, it is engineered to ensure inflation runs at a higher level. The labour shortage is one part of why inflation is so high. Why? This government despite all facts presented, chose to shut the economy down for nearly two years and in doing so had to borrow huge amounts of money to pay for all the handouts that were dished out at the time. So instead of paying it back, they make the debt worth less in real terms. This current environment is similar to the winter of discontent of the 1970’s but there is one main difference, in the 70’s the debt was owed by businesses, not the government.

Some amongst you may believe that this is down to Brexit, however it is my belief that this is only partly down to quite possibly the worst implementation of Brexit. Not Brexit itself. The government have used it to create a stealth tax that equates to £430m per year (cost of skilled worker VISA fees) that is levied directly onto UK Businesses which you as the consumer will end up paying for.

The fact still remains, we at Horton & Sons are absolutely flat out with work. We are taking on a gunsmith apprentice next year but that will take time for that individual to become proficient enough to earn their keep. So what do we do if importing labour is impossible?

Well simple, we have decided to create a sister business on the continent. Namely Maastricht, in the Netherlands which is 30 minute drive from Liegé. Not only is the tax regime in the Netherlands attractive but also the ability to access talent on the continent. It allows us to move guns between the two entities with no import or export duty. It also opens up another market for us. To be clear we will have two workshops, one here in Birmingham and another in Maastricht.

Isn’t it crazy that it is actually easier for us to set-up a business in another country than import the labour we need? Well unfortunately that is the scenario we find ourselves in, it saddens us that it has comes to this, however we have to push the business forward and ensure it is here for generations to come. This is a decision not took lightly at all. We will keep you posted on developments and some exciting news that will follow shortly.

‘If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain.’

Steve Horton, Director, W Horton Gunmakers Ltd


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  • Simon Belton says:

    Unbelievable UK government , I am a 53 year old bricklayer /builder plus groundwork /construction worker, I absolutely loved my job early in life but it has taken its toll on me physically, if I had my time again I would love to be a gunsmith , always had an interest in creating things especially metal , I admire the skill it takes to be a good gunsmith , especially before the likes of mass production machinery (cnc ) and such like , I have a humble collection of guns , my favourite being sxs with Damascus barrels , keep up the good work , do you do factory tours ? I’d love to watch the art of gun making first hand .

    • Steve Horton says:

      We don’t run organised tours but you are more than welcome to pop in for half an hour. We are just finalising some improvements, so in the new year would be better.