BMW concerns reveal Brexit anxiety in autos sector

Brexit uncertainty is kicking in and threatens to disrupt the UK’s car autos industry, Unite has warned.

Comments by BMW boss Harald Krüger in an interview with the Sunday Times that failure by the UK to secure a tariff-free deal for the sector would “hurt both sides” underscores the need for access to both a single market and customs union, and for the government to listen to workers and employers, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said.

Tony Burke said: “The autos sector is the jewel in the UK’s manufacturing crown and the uncertainty over future customs arrangements, the single market and what a transition period looks like, along with a general lack of clarity and progress in the Brexit negotiations, is forcing companies to look carefully at their future plans and future production of new models.

“Out of a customs union and single market could mean tariffs imposed on cars built here and sold into the EU of up to £1,500 each.

“Equally, car components which go back and forth up to four or five times across the Channel could face border hold ups, which could cause serious disruption to the ‘just in time’ structure operated in the sector.

“While Unite is confident that BMW will not renege on its undertaking to build its new electric Mini at Oxford, Unite has been warning of the sheer and growing exasperation in the industry about the lack of direction from the government and its unwillingness to listen to and engage with auto workers and employers. They need to speak directly to the auto industry and the workforce – not just a select group of employers’ bodies during dinners at country retreats.

“All eyes will be on the prime minister this Friday to see if she is able to offer any firmer or clearer position on access to the customs union and single market. She also has to face down some in her party who want a hard Brexit and believe a transition period is not necessary. Otherwise the UK auto industry which has been a massive success story could go into reverse.”