Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 23rd June 2018
Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s potential future relationship with the EU is hindering investment and threatening thousands of jobs within Britain’s auto industry.
That’s according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which has called for the government to urgently rethink its position on the customs union in the context of its ongoing Brexit negotiations.
“There is no Brexit dividend for our industry, particularly in what is an increasingly hostile and protectionist global trading environment,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes in a statement.
“Our message to government is that until it can demonstrate exactly how a new model for customs and trade with the EU can replicate the benefits we currently enjoy, don’t change it.”
While making its case about Brexit and the customs union, the SMMT released figures showing that 186,000 people are employed within the UK’s automotive manufacturing sector and a total of 856,000 rely on the wider industry for their employment.
Estimates on the economic contribution of the sector suggest that £20.2 billion is generated directly by British automotive companies on an annual basis and some £202 billion in revenues can be attributed to it in combination with “adjacent sectors”.
The SMMT’s concerns about what Brexit might mean for the automotive industry are based in part on figures showing that funds earmarked for investment by car companies across the UK fell by almost half between the first six months of 2017 and the same period in 2018.
“With decisions on new vehicle models in the UK due soon, government must take steps to boost investor confidence and safeguard the thousands of jobs that depend on the sector,” the lobby group has said.
“Government must end the current uncertainty about the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and commit to continued membership of the customs union and maintenance of the benefits the single market delivers.”
In recent days, Stephan Freismuth, customs manager of German car making giant BMW, suggested that his company would not be able to manufacture products in the UK if Brexit were to result in European supply chains being badly disrupted.
“We always said we can do our best and prepare everything, but if at the end of the day the supply chain will have a stop at the border, then we cannot produce our products in the UK,” he told the Financial Times.