“It’s a rewinding of history, overtly looking for trade with Commonwealth countries, rather than with Europe,” said John Lamb, a chamber spokesman. “We really are starting to look at markets in the post-Brexit world.”
At the KimberMills International factory in the Black Country west of Birmingham, workers use tongs to pluck glowing orange blocks of steel from a caldron-like furnace, then pound the metal into desired shapes using a three-and-a-half-ton hammer hoisted by a pulley.
Other workers guide lathes and drills to yield an assortment of industrial parts — rockers for marine engines, clamps for oil pipelines, components for gearboxes of construction machinery.
The plunge in the pound has raised the price of steel the company imports from Sweden, the Czech Republic and Italy. The company has raised its prices to adjust.
KimberMills taps a forge in Eastern Europe to produce large parts that are beyond its works in England. If Britain fails to strike a trade deal with Europe, these parts could face tariffs. The company has already begun seeking out alternative suppliers in Britain.
“Despite everything that happens, there’s a resilience to the British market,” said Larry Joyce, the company chairman. “We just get on with it.”
But on a recent afternoon at the Great Western pub, a cozy, beer-scented den in Wolverhampton, people worried that such sentiments were being overwhelmed by the economic realities of Brexit.
The pub has been doing a brisk business, owing to the success of the local soccer team, the Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose stadium is within walking distance. But customers were nursing woes.
“Brexit is a disaster,” said Richard Lloyd, 48, the proprietor of a local construction company, as he hoisted a pint of Guinness. “It’s thrown a lot of people into uncertainty. Companies are certainly delaying investment. They are being very cautious.”
Two years ago, Mr. Lloyd employed as many as 20 people. These days, he has only four. “If things were going really swimmingly, I’d hire more,” he said.
A local taxi driver, B. Maan, recalled how he used to take home 200 pounds, or about $266, in the course of a Saturday night, ferrying revelers to pubs. These days, he is fortunate to secure 120 pounds.
“People are spending less,” he said.
Time itself has become a threat. As negotiations yield headlines about sniping within Britain’s governing Conservative party, each week that passes absent clarity amplifies pressure on companies to shift people and operations to Europe.
“We can’t see how investment particularly, but also consumption, will not be affected,” said Kjersti Haugland, chief economist at DNB Markets, an investment bank in Norway. “How can you go ahead with big investments when you don’t know what framework will result?”
For Nim’s Fruit Crisps, the variables of Brexit have advanced British self-sufficiency.
Previously reliant on a supplier in Belgium for most of its fruits and vegetables, the company has in recent months found domestic suppliers for every needed variety except pineapple, limiting its exposure to the vagaries of exchange rates. Today, Nim’s buys apples, parsnips, cucumbers and a range of other crops from British farmers.
The fall in the pound has also made Nim’s products cheaper outside Britain, bolstering its exports, which now make up more than half of total sales. Nim’s snacks are sold in Germany, France, Italy, India, Israel and — soon — Saudi Arabia.
“What I’ve learned is that Europe isn’t the only market for us,” said Ms. Raja, whose Nim’s business card identifies her as TheBoss.
Yet as she seeks to complete a deal putting her crisps on the shelves of a major British supermarket chain, Ms. Raja worries that the needed volumes will exceed the capacities of Britain.
“I suddenly have to find 100 tons of apples,” she said.
She is scoping out farms in Poland, even as she worries about the value of British money in a world shaped by Brexit.
“I have to keep my margins tight,” she said.