70 per cent of respondents to the The Engineer’s latest poll believe that government isn’t taking industry’s Brexit warnings seriously enough.
Talks in Salzburg have left the UK and the EU at an impasse that currently points Britain toward a no-deal withdrawal from Europe.
PM Theresa May doesn’t necessarily want this, and neither do senior figures in industry who have expressed concerns about losing tariff-free access and frictionless trade with Europe.
The EU has presented two options in terms of future economic relations, the first requiring the UK to stay in the European Economic Area and in a customs union with the European Union; the second to enter a free trade agreement that would introduce checks at the Great Britain/EU border.
“This would mean we’d still have to abide by all the EU rules, uncontrolled immigration from the EU would continue and we couldn’t do the trade deals we want with other countries. That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago,” May said on returning from Salzburg. “But even worse, Northern Ireland would effectively remain in the Customs Union and parts of the Single Market, permanently separated economically from the rest of the UK by a border down the Irish Sea. Parliament has already – unanimously – rejected this idea.”
This fundamental stalemate is of little use to those in industry who fear the impact of a hard Brexit on assembling products and trading within the EU.
Chief among them is Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr Ralph Speth, who used an address at the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham to reiterate the threat a hard Brexit poses to the UK’s largest car maker.
In April this year the company cut 1,000 jobs in Solihull, blaming Brexit and consumer uncertainty over diesel for a slump in sales and last week it announced that its Castle Bromwich plant will move to a three-day week following a review of the company’s production schedules, a decision attributed to ‘’Brexit chaos’ by local MP Jack Dromey.
German car giant BMW is making contingency plans too, bringing forward the planned maintenance shutdown of its Oxford Mini plant to ensure against potential supply chain issues following Brexit.
Given these shifts in operations, we asked if government is taking industry warnings seriously enough, and the result – with 70 per cent of the poll’s 544 respondents – was a resounding ‘no’.
Industry disquiet has been dismissed by some as ‘scaremongering’ and 11 per cent of respondents to last week’s poll agree that government is right to disregard industry’s warnings. Seven per cent of respondents agreed that May’s Chequer’s deal did enough to address manufacturing concerns, and 12 per cent opted for the ‘none of the above’ options.
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