CEO Update

Brexit deadlock must be broken

29 March 2019 #CEO Update

UK automotive manufacturing figures for February were released this week – the most attention-grabbing of the numbers was the -15.3% year-on-year drop in car production, which now marks nine successive months of decline.

This drop is by no means just about Brexit – there are international trade tensions to navigate, declining confidence among consumers around the world and the constant challenge of meeting increasingly stringent emissions legislation – but the industry can ill afford yet more uncertainty. So much time and resource has already been spent on ‘no deal’ preparations that would have been far better invested elsewhere.

Yet the debate in Westminster continues, and much of it on a theoretical level. The reality on the ground is that Brexit is biting and business anxiety has reached fever pitch. The looming threat of a ‘no deal’ exit might have been moved along from today’s original deadline date, incredible in itself some three years after the UK voted to leave the EU, but it still remains as the default result if consensus can’t be found.

Not only that, but the prolonged uncertainty has paralysed investment, cost jobs and damaged our global reputation. Now, more than ever, we need parliament to come together to bring the stability the sector so desperately craves. Only then can we start to rebuild confidence and invest fully in the new technologies that will ensure the UK is at the forefront of the design, build, testing, manufacture and sale of these new products, and get consumers excited about the automotive industry again.

We are looking forward to hosting SMMT Connected 2019 next week at the QEII Centre in London. The event will bring together more than 450 people from vehicle manufacturers, the technology and automotive industries, government and the media, discussing the latest advances in connected and autonomous vehicles and what needs to be done to accelerate their deployment on our roads.

There is much to be positive about in UK Automotive – we enjoy a strong position in CAV development and testing, we have a highly skilled and flexible workforce and we have a rich heritage in engineering excellence that is globally recognised. But that will count for little if the conditions for investment are not right. And unlocking Brexit is the key to a successful future.

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