Unite backs car industry on need for urgent Brexit clarity

Unite has backed the call by the UK car industry for “urgent clarity” on the future trading relationship with the European Union, made during a meeting between industry leaders, the prime minister and the business secretary.

But the union has called again for a seat at the table to enable workers to fight the corner of UK jobs and industries.

The efforts by car company executives to set out why clarity was needed now, because investment decisions cannot be delayed, are reported to have been met with assurances from Theresa May and Greg Clark that the government is determined to get a deal that will “safeguard the competitiveness of the sector”, including an implementation period so that businesses only have to adapt to one set of changes.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said that while this dialogue was welcome, it was time the government engaged with trade unions in the development of the transition period and the future trading relationship.

“It’s said that the possibility of long-term plant closures or job losses were not explicitly mentioned during the meeting, which will give little comfort to thousands of auto workers and those in the UK’s wider manufacturing base.

“With the majority of components of British-built cars being imported – crossing national borders many times – there are potentially catastrophic consequences for our car industry and its supply chains of a loss of frictionless trade borders. Industry leaders are right to ask for clarity, but unions too need urgent evidence that the government is seeking a final Brexit settlement in the interest of workers. Our voice must be heard.”

Tony Burke also said that the auto sector impact assessment, along with all of the government-commissioned studies, must be published in full.

“It makes no sense for ministers to tell the industry they understand the complexity of complying with new customs rules but to continue to refuse to reveal the full extent of what the impact analysis has actually revealed. Labour’s move to force publication of the studies was of course supported and welcomed by Unite, but it shouldn’t need such action to force this information into the open.

“Unite’s members, and the wider public, have the right to judge for themselves the information the government has about the impact of a hard Brexit on their jobs.”