With just 13 days left until the end of transition, and as 2020 draws to a close, finally securing a trade deal with the EU would be extremely welcome news to round off what otherwise has surely been the most challenging of years.
We welcome the commitment from both sides to keep talking to break through the political impasse. Negotiators now need to double down on efforts to finish the task and agree the deal that we all so desperately need. As we’ve said time and time again, ‘no deal’ would be catastrophic for the sector, its workers and their families – it has to be ruled out.
Of course a deal is far preferable to the devastation of leaving on WTO terms, but unless it works for automotive, it will not guarantee future prosperity, risking damage to our ability to trade in the short term – and to our long-term global competitiveness. The industry – both in the UK and EU – needs tariff-free trade that is fully accessible and effective for all automotive goods from day one – and we have worked tirelessly to ensure negotiators understand this.
Last week I wrote about the need for free trade with other important global markets so the signing of another trade agreement with Mexico this week that rolls over preferential trade terms that would have expired when at the end of transition is welcome news. Trade between the UK and Mexico in cars, engines and parts is worth hundreds of millions of pounds every year so the imposition of WTO tariffs would have been extremely damaging.
Despite the incredible challenges this year, we should look back with a sense of pride at the sector’s resilience, despite the triple whammy of Brexit uncertainty, the coronavirus pandemic and the need to plot a course to phasing out the sale of new ICE cars and vans 10 years earlier than before.
Manufacturers joined the national effort in the fight against the pandemic, helping to produce PPE and ventilators. Workshops put in place special measures to keep society’s most vulnerable people safely on the move. Retailers acted swiftly to ensure their premises were Covid-secure – allowing them to open ahead of other non-essential retail – as well as demonstrating their flexibility in honing click and collect services, a feat which paid dividends during the second lockdown.
To say that 2020 has not been an easy year for the automotive industry would be an understatement and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members for your continued support.
For now, the industry deserves a well-earned break, but with a deal yet to be announced and no doubt questions to be answered on the detail behind it, SMMT will remain on hand over the holidays to continue supporting our members and the wider sector. Our new online Brexit transition support hub contains all of the latest information related to the changes that will come into force from 1 January, and the actions businesses need to take to prepare. This will be regularly updated as the situation develops so I would encourage you to keep checking it.
Finally, while celebrations will be different this year, we at SMMT hope that you have a Merry Christmas and a much more prosperous New Year. Update will now take a short break until 8 January and we look forward to working with you in 2021.