James Attwood, AUTOCAR – American-owned company issues warning in private call to Prime Minister over move that could affect 13,000 staff
The company’s bosses made the warning to Theresa May during a private call with business leaders, The Times has reported.
The US carmaker Ford has described a no-deal Brexit as a “red line” that would force it to reconsider the scale of its presence in Britain in a dramatic reversal of an earlier commitment to stay put.
Ford issued the warning on the same day as the pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca and the carmaker Nissan said the prospect of a hard Brexit was already disrupting their businesses.
The interventions, from firms employing nearly 30,000 people between them in the UK, offered a timely reminder of the anxiety within British industry as Theresa May revealed that talks with Brussels had reached an impasse over arrangements for the border in Northern Ireland.
Ford’s European boss, Steven Armstrong, said: “For Ford, a hard Brexit is a red line. It could severely damage the UK’s competitiveness and result in a significant threat to much of the auto industry, including our own UK manufacturing operations.”
Ford, which has two plants in the UK and employs around 13,000 staff, revealed it was preparing alternative sites abroad but gave no further information.
It’s currently undergoing a massive global restructuring of its business, including its European arm. It’s planning a £14 billion cost-cutting programme, involving savings in manufacturing, engineering and purchasing, and will be evaluating its production sites as part of that process.
It recently cut around 400 jobs from its plant in Bridgend, South Wales.
British car industry officials have repeatedly warned of the damage that Brexit could cause. Several manufacturers are working on short-term contingency plans, including bringing forward production halts to just after 29 March, the day Britain is due to leave the European Union.
The Times reported that other businesses delivered a similar warning during the call. Nissan recently scrapped plans to produce the new X-Trail in Sunderland, citing Brexit concerns as well as the downturn in diesel popularity.
In response, May said that the Government is working on a package of financial support for businesses affected by a no-deal Brexit.