CEO Update

How the UK can recover its global reputation

28 June 2019 #CEO Update

This week saw SMMT host its annual International Automotive Summit, with a packed agenda of speakers that made for an informative, entertaining and productive day. Brexit dominated discussion, as expected, but there was a firm belief that UK Automotive could still have a bright future and the UK recover its global reputation as an investment destination of choice, if we get a deal to end the instability.

You don’t lose a global reputation for building high quality products because of a political decision, and the fundamentals of the UK motor industry remain strong. Where we face a challenge, however, is in attracting investment into a country which has lost its global standing as one of the most politically stable nations. We urgently need confidence restored so that we can build on our strengths and transition to the next generation of powertrain and mobility technologies.

We used the Summit to launch our new UK Automotive Trade Report, which focuses on the key role that automotive plays in the country’s trade balance. The sector accounts for 14.4% of UK goods exported, the largest single contributor, employing 168,000 people in manufacturing and contributing £18.6 billion to the UK public purse every year.

Indeed, if you were to remove auto from UK trade, the country’s global ranking as an exporter drops from 10th to 14th, below Belgium, Canada, Mexico and Russia. The stakes remain high, however, and the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is a danger – the report shows how a border delay necessitating a production stop to the sector would cost £50,000 a minute. Hence the need for a deal, and quickly.

The evening before Summit we held our annual parliamentary reception in the House of Commons, attended by members, stakeholders and parliamentarians. We were pleased to welcome Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner as keynote speakers, both of whom emphasised the importance of the automotive sector to UK trade.

We were also able to announce a new co-operation agreement we have signed with our Chinese counterparts at CAAM. This agreement underscores our commitment to forge greater relationships and understanding between our two markets. SMMT will always seek to help our members take advantage of global opportunities and, given the importance of China both in market and investment terms, it makes sense to see how we can enhance the relationship. Whatever happens with Brexit, we will always try to help members grow their businesses at home and abroad.

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