‘Undoubtedly linked to Brexit’: Unite slams closure of Appledore shipyard

The closure of the 164-year-old Appledore shipyard on March 15 is a “national tragedy” and the latest in a “truly shocking” litany of negative business decisions related to the Tory’s handling of Brexit, Unite said today (March 1).

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The closure of the north Devon shipyard, which follows on from announcements that Honda is closing its Swindon site, Ford is cutting jobs at its Bridgend plant and that Nissan has scrapped plans to build the X-trail in Sunderland, is “undoubtedly” linked to Brexit uncertainty, the union said.

In further evidence of the government’s harmful Brexit policies, the date for Appledore’s closure was announced at the same time as it was revealed that the government has had to pay £33m to Eurotunnel after excluding the company from its ‘no deal’ planning.

Commenting on the shutting of the Appledore shipyard, regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer said, “Brexit uncertainty, undoubtedly, did play a part in creating this imbroglio.

“The Italian yard shipyard, Vittoria, which won the Maltese order, effectively sounding the death knell for Appledore, benefited from EU funding and Italian state aid.

“Clearly, the UK government does not fight for its own shipbuilding industry with the same vigour as European competitors.”

Pettifer said that while the future of Appledore’s workers at the moment is “fluid” because some are working at nearby Devonport, the closure is still a “bitter blow” for the workers, their families and the Devon economy – all of which have been betrayed by a government that has “no manufacturing strategy”.

Meanwhile, the decision by the government to exclude Eurotunnel from its no deal planning has left workers at the company, which provides the fastest and only permanent connection to the continent and moves millions of tonnes of freight every year, fearing for their jobs.

Unite’s 350 strong membership at Eurotunnel are worried that the government’s awarding of contracts to ferry companies – one of which has now been cancelled because the firm had no ships – will be used to entice customers away from Eurotunnel.

Unite national officer for the rail industry Harish Patel said, “Our members still haven’t had a sensible answer as to why Eurotunnel was excluded from Grayling’s Brexit planning. The feeling is that he simply forgot it was there.

“The only way to restore confidence in the Brexit transport planning process is for Grayling to put out of his misery by resigning or being sacked.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the closure of Appledore, along with the rest of the long-line of Brexit-related disasters caused by the government, are evidence of the “appalling consequences of Theresa May’s destructive Brexit strategy”.

“There is now a truly shocking number of firms across UK manufacturing either heading for the exit, cancelling investment, shifting their headquarters or issuing dire warnings about the consequences of no deal,” Turner said.

“The Tories claim to be the party of business, but they have failed to deliver on a desperately needed industrial strategy and completely disregarded the genuine concerns raised by some of Britain’s biggest employers – Honda, GSK, Nissan, Ford, Airbus and Unilever to name but a few – and are still running the clock down towards crashing out the EU.”

“Let me be clear: This is people’s lives and the future of communities across the UK we are talking about.”

Turner called on the government to “stop this madness”, rule out no deal and take up Labour’s proposals to deliver a Brexit that protects jobs, investment and long-term rights by ensuring the UK remains in a customs union and retains single market access to the EU.

“The majority of MPs know this is the only course of action that will prevent the wanton destruction of our economy while honouring the result of the referendum,” Turner said.

“The time for Theresa May to abandon ideological red lines and act in the national interest rather than her party’s is now.”

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