What do Derby, Sunderland and Swindon all have in common?
They’re all home to a large Japanese car factory and they all voted for Brexit.
Back in the early 1990s Jacques Calvet, the then head of PSA, famously referred to the UK as Japan’s fifth largest island and called it ‘the Japanese aircraft carrier off the coast of Europe’.
Well the vote for Brexit has effectively cast the Japanese aircraft carrier adrift.
The Japanese had agreed to voluntary export restraints to limit their market share in Europe and the investment by Honda, Nissan and Toyota was designed to get around such trade barriers.
If negotiations to enable us to exit the Europe ‘project’ result in the imposition of import duties for British built goods then new models are unlikely to be built in these factories.
This doesn’t just apply to the Japanese. Followers of Vauxhall’s fortunes will be well aware that Ellesmere Port has to fight other GM plants in Europe for investment for each new Astra model . Unlike the Japanese GM has other options already in place and could use the Brexit vote as an excuse to close the plant. The residents of The Wirral voted for Brexit.
If the UK wants to continue to produce large numbers of vehicles then Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT and his team need to embark on some serious lobbying to safeguard the interests of the UK automotive industry by securing tariff-free access to the European market and ensuring we can recruit talent from the EU.
Failure to do so could result in the closure of several car plants in the UK with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs both at the car plants themselves and at suppliers and local communities serving those plants.
Further afield we have Toyota engine plant at Deeside & Ford engine plant in Bridgend, VW owned Bentley and the BMW owned Mini and Rolls-Royce plants. The full implications and long term effects of the Brexit vote are likely to be considerable and it’s imperative that the SMMT does not sit on the fence but actually works hard with Government, EU and their car maker members to ensure the UK remains a major player in the production and creation of a big contributor to the wealth of the nation.
Thursday, 23 June will be remembered for many reasons, some good and some bad.