McCluskey: Use Brexit trigger to boost UK autos and defend manufacturing heartlands

With only days to go before the prime minister triggers the UK’s exit from the European Union, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has called for a clear signal that the UK’s auto sector and manufacturing heartlands will be protected.

Speaking ahead of a landmark conference of workforce and industry experts, McCluskey said that the UK auto sector needs investment and stability in order to stay a world leader.

He said: “There are almost one million UK workers engaged in building nearly two million vehicles every year.
“This industry contributes billions to the Treasury and provides decent jobs for our communities.

“A ‘bad’ Brexit will put this at risk. We cannot have a Brexit that suits the City of London, but neglects our manufacturing heartlands because that is to consign these communities to a poorer future. The money our members earn is spent in their communities, supporting other local jobs and services. Sadly, this cannot always be said for the financial high rollers.

“So I appeal to the prime minister, when you trigger Article 50 take the opportunity to make it abundantly clear to manufacturing workers and our auto employers that their futures are your priority. State definitively that you will be seeking access to a barrier-free single market and the customs union our industry needs.

“Overnight, I am sure that this would see the investment taps turn and confidence in the UK sector soar.”

He added that the sector faces another major challenge in the shape of increasing digitalisation in the sector, and this too must be a factor in the government’s strategy for backing vehicle building

“Technology is so advanced that one robot can now do the work of a team of skilled engineers. The implications for future employment are enormous which is why we must have the government’s engagement in investment for research and development in digital and electric technologies but mostly to provide the trading stability that the sector needs.

“A cliff-edge Brexit will isolate the UK’s automakers and workers at the very time when the global industry is undergoing a technological revolution. It must not happen.”

McCluskey was speaking in advance of the conference called by Unite, Securing a Future for our UK Auto Industry, which is taking place in Birmingham tomorrow (Saturday, 25 March).

Len McCluskey will address the conference, joined by Professor David Bailey from Aston University and Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Attending the conference will be union representatives and workers from all the major car and vehicle manufacturers and the industry supply chain in the UK.