The government must avoid a “catastrophic” hard Brexit Unite has warned, after the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab admitted it was now preparing for no deal to be reached.
A cliff edge Brexit would hit UK manufacturing particularly hard, said Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke.
He said: “We want to see an agreement reached that provides for frictionless trade, a customs union and access to a single market. But there is a great deal of pessimism among manufacturing companies and there is no doubt companies are taking their own steps to prepare for a cliff edge.”
Following the recent lobby of MPs by Unite shop stewards and statements from Airbus, BMW, JLR and others opposing a “hard Brexit”, it was reported this week that if the “just in time” supply chain broke down Honda’s giant Swindon plant – which receives 2m components a day through the free movement of goods – would have to stockpile a minimum of nine days worth of components.
Burke said: “It’s being reported if there was no deal on a customs union Honda would need to erect a warehouse which would be the third largest building on earth.”
Meanwhile, bosses from aerospace giant Airbus said last week that the firm could lose £1bn a week if a hard Brexit stops their “just in time” supply chain, including wings travelling for assembly from 4,000 UK suppliers that employ more than 100,000 staff.
Burke said: “If there is no deal there are massive implications for our members in manufacturing. Small and medium companies in the supply chain that rely on larger companies would be badly hit.
“This is not ‘project fear’ it’s just the reality of the situation.”
Burke pointed out that manufacturing is “absolutely interconnected and extremely complex”.
He said: “The hard Brexiteers are saying that we can just disconnect from Europe and latch onto other trading partners in places like the US and South East Asia.
“But there’s been no planning and no time scale mapped out. Suggesting we can cobble together trade deals with Trump in the USA, with Australia and New Zealand and 20 plus Pacific Rim countries as Liam Fox is suggesting is a farcical situation.”
Burke said that Unite will defend members jobs and would not allow companies to simply move out of the UK because of Brexit.
“Companies have a responsibility to our members and we will fight to ensure they uphold that responsibility. However we are not in that situation yet and we hope that we can avoid a cliff edge,” he said.
“But for that to happen Theresa May must banish the cabal of hard right Brextremist MPs who do not care about manufacturing and who are holding her hostage. The UK must secure a deal that maintains frictionless trade with the EU, secures investment and protects decent jobs.”