BMW shifts Mini plant maintenance for Brexit buffer

BMW is bringing next summer’s planned maintenance shutdown of its Oxford Mini plant forward to ensure against potential Brexit supply chain woes.

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The production halt, which is a regular fixture in the plant’s calendar, will now shift to the beginning of April to coincide with the UK’s departure from the EU, scheduled for 29 March. Located in Cowley, just outside Oxford, the facility employs around 4,500 workers and produces 5,000 cars per week. BMW, which has owned the MIni marque since 2000, said the plant will remain open during the shutdown period, with maintenance, management and catering staff continuing to work on site.

“Planned annual maintenance periods at BMW Group production sites allow essential updating and equipment replacement to be completed over several weeks, while there is no production taking place,” a spokesperson for the German car giant told Sky News.  

“As a responsible organisation, we have scheduled next year’s annual maintenance period at MINI Plant Oxford to start on 1 April, when the UK exits the EU, to minimise the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit. While we believe this worst-case scenario is an unlikely outcome, we have to plan for it.”

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The chances of the UK exiting the EU without a trade deal have increased recently, with both Labour and several of Theresa May’s own Conservative Party MPs making it clear they will not vote for the prime minister’s Chequers deal. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the automotive industry would likely be one of the hardest hit, as just-in-time supply chains would come under severe pressure and WTO tariffs would make UK-made cars more expensive to export.

The past week has seen senior figures within the sector, including JLR’s CEO Ralf Speth and Honda Europe SVP Ian Howells, outlining precisely where the extra costs would be incurred. However, some prominent Brexiteers have dismissed the claims of these senior executives, with Speth even accused of making figures up. JLR also announced this week that 1,000 staff at its Castle Bromwich plant will be moved to a three-day week.

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