Car mak­ers warn: Time run­ning out to strike a Brexit deal In­dus­try’s sur­vival alert as BMW city plant could be un­der threat

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

CAR man­u­fac­tur­ers have warned that time is “run­ning out” for the UK to agree a Brexit deal with the EU that will al­low the Bri­tish au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try to sur­vive.

They called for swifter progress on a deal “that will put an end to un­cer­tainty and pri­ori­tise the needs of the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor”.

The warn­ing came from the So­ci­ety of Mo­tor Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Traders, which rep­re­sents car­mak­ers in the UK.

The in­dus­try di­rectly em­ploys 186,000 peo­ple while the wider in­dus­try, in­clud­ing com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers and oth­ers, em­ploys a to­tal of 856,000.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, said the UK’s cur­rent ar­range­ments with the EU were the right ones for the car in­dus­try – and said there was con­cern that the Gov­ern­ment still didn’t know what would re­place them once Brexit takes place.

He warned: “There is grow­ing frus­tra­tion in global board­rooms at the slow pace of ne­go­ti­a­tions”.

It comes af­ter car­maker BMW warned it could close plants in the UK, in­clud­ing its en­gine man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity at Hams Hill, Coleshill, near Birm­ing­ham.

The sites could go if BMW can­not quickly and re­li­ably im­port com­po­nents from main­land Europe af­ter Brexit, the firm said.

At the mo­ment, the UK’s mem­ber­ship of the EU’s Cus­toms Union and Sin­gle Mar­ket al­lows parts to be im­ported and ex­ported be­tween the UK and the rest of the EU with­out de­lays at bor­ders.

Stephan Freis­muth, BMW’s Cus­toms Man­ager, said: “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.”

BMW em­ploys more than 7,000 peo­ple at four fa­cil­i­ties across the UK. Car­mak­ers have re­peat­edly raised con­cerns about ar­range­ments at bor­ders af­ter Brexit, which is due to take place on March 29, 2019.

They tend to have com­plex sup­ply chains in­volv­ing a large num­ber of firms which pro­vide com­po­nents, and many of these sup­pli­ers are in other parts of Europe.

They also op­er­ate what is known as a “just in time” sys­tem of man­u­fac­tur­ing, in which parts are or­dered when they are needed and ar­rive swiftly at the fac­tory.

The sys­tem works be­cause parts can be sent to the UK with­out de­lays, thanks to EU mem­ber­ship.

But it would fall apart if there were long de­lays at bor­ders.

Mr Hawes said: “The cur­rent po­si­tion, with con­flict­ing mes­sages and red lines goes di­rectly against the

There is no Brexit div­i­dend for our in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly in what is an in­creas­ingly hos­tile and pro­tec­tion­ist global trad­ing en­vi­ron­ment

in­ter­ests of the UK au­to­mo­tive sec­tor which has thrived on sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union mem­ber­ship.

“There is no cred­i­ble ‘plan B’ for fric­tion­less cus­toms ar­range­ments, nor is it re­al­is­tic to ex­pect that new trade deals can be agreed with the rest of the world that will repli­cate the im­mense value of trade with the EU. Gov­ern­ment must re­think its po­si­tion on the cus­toms union.”

Mr Hawes con­tin­ued: “There is no Brexit div­i­dend for our in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly in what is an in­creas­ingly hos­tile and pro­tec­tion­ist global trad­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“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.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Ex­ec­u­tive

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BMW’s Hams Hall plant, which the firm has warned could close if they can­not re­li­ably im­port com­po­nents from main­land Europe af­ter Brexit

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