The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) today called for swifter progress on Brexit and a deal that, as a minimum, maintains customs union membership and delivers single market benefits.
According to the SMMT’s annual report, the manufacturing sector turned over a record £82 billion in 2017, marking an eighth consecutive year of growth.
Despite this positive performance last year, the first six months of 2018 have been less encouraging. Production output has fallen alongside slowing demand in the new vehicle markets; job cuts have been announced and investment has stalled, with just £347.3 million earmarked for new models, equipment and facilities in the UK – almost half the sum announced in the same period last year
With decisions on new vehicle models in the UK due soon, the SMMT says the Government must take steps to boost investor confidence and safeguard the thousands of jobs that depend on the 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.”
The SMMT says Government must end the current uncertainty about the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, and commit to continued membership of the customs union and maintenance of the benefits the single market delivers.