Government’s Brexit “red lines” to blame for economic uncertainty amid falling car figures

Unite has warned of a deeply worrying trend and called on the government to provide ‘Brexit certainty’ as figures out today (5 January) showed new car registrations fell by 5.7 per cent last year amid falling business and consumer confidence.

The union blamed the government’s Brexit “red lines” – no access to the European single market or a customs union – for the continued drop in sales, along with lack of clarity over exactly what ministers do agree future trading arrangements should be.

Approximately 2.54 million new cars were registered in 2017 compared with 2.69 million the previous year, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

December saw an even sharper decline of 14.4 per cent with demand for diesels falling by 17.1 per cent over the year amid accusations of damaging government confusion over its policy on diesel cars.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The latest car registration figures confirm a deeply worrying trend that will leave the UK’s world class car workers looking to the year ahead with trepidation.

“The government is causing huge uncertainty for the industry through its refusal to accept that access to the single market and a customs union is vital for jobs and to avoid a cliff-edge Brexit.

“That uncertainty is only added to by the obvious lack of agreement in government on what the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU will be, now that the Chancellor Philip Hammond appears to have indicated that being in a long-term customs union with the EU has not been ruled out.

“What with the confusion and damage caused by the government’s botched and badly thought through policy on diesel cars and the economic and Brexit uncertainty, ministers risk taking the sheen off the jewel in the UK’s manufacturing crown and the 800,000 high skilled jobs it sustains.

“The government needs to start listening to the industry and workforce.

“Car workers and manufacturing communities will be looking to ministers to get the economy out of the slow lane in the year ahead and provide certainty over the UK’s future trading relationship with Europe in order to unlock stalling car manufacturer investment.

“A failure to do so will jeopardise the UK’s status as world leader in car manufacturing and undo the hard work of Britain’s car workers.”