UK automotive firms warn of no-deal Brexit catastrophe

SMMT survey finds 74.1 per cent of companies with UK operations think a no-deal Brexit would threaten their future viability

Nearly three quarters of UK automotive businesses fear a no-deal Brexit would threaten their future viability, according to new data. 

Of those who responded to a survey of Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) members, 74.1 per cent said a no-deal scenario would damage their business, while less than nine per cent believe there would be any positive impact at all.

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More than half of those surveyed said their operations had already suffered as a result of uncertainty about future trading arrangements between the UK and the EU, and a third said they had postponed or cancelled UK investment decisions because of Brexit, with one in five having already lost business as a direct consequence. 

Over 50 per cent added they were already executing contingency plans, with 12.4 per cent relocating UK operations overseas. Some have also made alterations to logistics and shipping routes, investment in warehousing and stock, and production schedules.

On the topic of the long term, 68.5 per cent said their profitability would be negatively affected by a no-deal Brexit, while 53.9 per cent are concerned about their ability to secure new overseas business and a similar number are worried about maintaining investment in their UK operations. A further half said a no-deal scenario would undermine their ability to maintain their existing workforce. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the UK’s membership of the EU’s single market and customs union “has driven the success of the UK automotive industry”. He said Brexit is “painful” and “already causing damage”.

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Hawes said leaving the EU without a deal would be “catastrophic”, claiming “plants will close” and “jobs will be lost”. He added the SMMT recognises the withdrawal agreement has been “hard-fought” and “delivers a transition period which steps us back from the cliff-edge”.

SMMT president Tony Walker claimed a no-deal Brexit “is not an option”, saying it would have “immediate and devastating impacts” in the short term.

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