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UK car investment halves as Brexit uncertainty bites

The UK automotive industry is urging the Government to rethink its position on a Brexit customs union as UK car investment slumps to half what it was a year ago.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive

A new report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows the importance of UK automotive to economy, with manufacturing turnover hitting a record £82bn in 2017.

However, the first six months of 2018 have seen just £347.3m earmarked for new models, equipment and facilities in the UK – almost half the sum announced in the same period last year – while production output has fallen alongside slowing demand in the new vehicle markets. The industry has also seen a number of job cuts announced – namely at Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover.

In response, the SMMT said negotiators must get on with the job of agreeing a deal that will put an end to uncertainty and prioritise the needs of the automotive sector.

Speaking today at the industry’s annual Summit, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Today’s figures show the critical importance of the automotive industry to the UK economy. There is growing frustration in global boardrooms at the slow pace of negotiations. The current position, with conflicting messages and red lines goes directly against the interests of the UK automotive sector which has thrived on single market and customs union membership. There is no credible ‘plan B’ for frictionless customs arrangements, nor is it realistic to expect that new trade deals can be agreed with the rest of the world that will replicate the immense value of trade with the EU. Government must rethink its position on the customs union.

“There is no Brexit dividend for our industry, particularly in what is an increasingly hostile and protectionist global trading environment. Our message to government is that until it can demonstrate exactly how a new model for customs and trade with the EU can replicate the benefits we currently enjoy, don’t change it.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.