Unite: Brexit uncertainty is no reason for PSA to delay UK investment

The boss of Vauxhall has said Brexit uncertainty is threatening the future of its Ellesmere Port plant.

Unite agreed that the government’s shambolic handling of the Brexit process is negatively impacting manufacturers, but said that it should not be used to raise fears that the plant, which is a lead producer of cars for the UK’s domestic market, could be closed.

Carlos Tavares, chief executive of PSA, Vauxhall’s parent company, said the lack of clarity over the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU is “a big concern”.

He said: “This is not a problem for the PSA Group, this is a problem for the whole UK automotive industry.”

In an interview with the BBC, Tavares said the uncertainty was harming the chances of Ellesmere Port getting more orders after 2021.

He said: “We cannot invest in a world of uncertainty… No one is going to make huge investments without knowing what will be the final competitiveness of the Brexit outcome.”

Tavares said the decision to produce new models at Ellesmere needs to be made “very soon”.

His comments come after a rocky period for PSA’s UK workers. In October, 400 redundancies were announced at Ellesmere, followed by another 250 in January.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey acknowledged Tavares’ Brexit concerns, but said they don’t detract from Vauxhall’s enviable UK market position.

“Our Vauxhall plants are among the most productive in the PSA family, and the products our members make are among the most popular vehicles in the country. PSA has every reason to invest in the UK, and Unite is working day and night to ensure that this is understood,” McCluskey said.

“Of course, the government position on Brexit is creating uncertainty for major manufacturing companies but this should not be used by Mr Tavares to raise the fear of closure of Ellesmere Port. The UK market is vitally important to Peugeot and if he wants to protect that market share he should openly commit to new models in both Ellesmere Port and Luton.”

Tavares’ Brexit comments come amid a slew of similar warnings from UK manufacturers.

This week, Airbus warned it may consider moving its UK operations if clarity over a new customs arrangement with the EU is not forthcoming.

The European aerospace giant, which employs 15,000 people in the UK, said it will soon have to begin stockpiling parts to mitigate border delays – a move it says will make its UK operations uncompetitive.

Senior Unite rep for Rolls-Royce aerospace, Simon Hemmings, reiterated that time was running out for the government to agree a deal with the EU that will not adversely impact the aerospace and shipbuilding sectors.

“We need the UK government to begin negotiations around arrangements that will be friendly to the way our industries work. Over time there will be job losses if supply chains are disrupted because of border barriers,” Hemmings said.

“If we have a hard Brexit new products will not be developed and built in the UK. That will ultimately affect several thousands of jobs over a protracted period.”