Honda’s announcement this week that it plans to close its Swindon plant in 2021 is devastating news for the people who work directly for the company but also for those in the supply chain, and a blow to UK automotive manufacturing as a whole.
Automotive is a finely balanced ecosystem – not just within the UK but across the world. The global industry is facing fundamental changes: technological, commercial and environmental, as well as escalating trade tensions. All manufacturers are facing difficult and expensive decisions.
The UK should be at the forefront of these changes, championing its competitiveness and innovation, rather than having to focus resources on the need to avoid a catastrophic ‘No Deal’ Brexit. While the UK’s departure from the EU might not be a direct factor in all these tough business decisions, the current uncertainty just gives investors a reason to delay or even to look elsewhere. There are 35 days to go until we leave the EU and still no one knows quite what to expect.
We should be focused on the big issues – connectivity, driverless technology, more environmentally friendly powertrains, the list goes on. SMMT is providing forums to do that with SMMT Connected 2019, the Future Mobility Challenge and other events that look at these important topics. Every day that passes without consensus on Brexit is a day lost in the race with our competitors. We need to get a deal and move on urgently, to show that Britain remains at the forefront of research and development as well as being a good place to do business.
Our sector has been built on the promise of frictionless trade and access to markets far larger than just the UK. It’s crucial that we get progress towards an agreement with the European Union this coming week. We need certainty, we need frictionless trade and we need a deal that safeguards the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on UK Automotive.