Belfast Telegraph

Single market and European exports 'crucial', say motor industry leaders

Motor industry leaders have spoken of the "crucial" importance of the single market and European exports as new figures showed the sector enjoyed a hugely successful year.

Vehicle production topped 1.7 million last year, with almost four out of five cars built for export, 57.5% of which went to the EU.

Turnover was more than £71 billion in 2015, up by 7.3% on the previous year, and the industry now employs around 814,000 workers, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Average new car emissions fell by a third since 2000, and by 2.6% in 2015 alone, the SMMT reported.

Chief executive Mike Hawes said: "UK automotive has gone from strength to strength, and is now delivering record turnover, record productivity and more jobs.

"These strong results go hand in hand with a steadfast commitment to improving our environmental performance, which is clearly demonstrated through reductions in CO2, waste and water use.

"This success has been due to unrestricted access to the single market, input to EU legislation to safeguard the interests of UK automotive, and the ability to recruit talent from abroad.

"Our growth depends on certainty and continued open and reciprocal access to the 100-plus markets with which the UK automotive industry so successfully trades.

"This is not just finished cars but components, technologies and the wider automotive value chain. Any risks and uncertainty to these fundamental benefits need to be addressed head on by UK Government."

Mr Hawes said the car industry was "deeply integrated" with Europe, which he described as its single most important international relationship.

The SMMT supported remaining in the EU, and the industry now faces new challenges amid uncertainty and economic instability, he said.

"For the next two years at least we remain in Europe. Maintaining consumer and business confidence is the immediate priority."

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite, said the car industry had to be safeguarded after Brexit, adding: "The UK exports excellent cars to more than 100 countries; we have a skilled and flexible workforce and we have a shared determination to see this crucial industry is safeguarded."

The SMMT revealed there are an estimated 5,000 vacancies across the motor industry amid a continued skills shortage.

Car manufacturing is already up by 10% so far this year, while companies in the supply chain plan to invest £225 million in new jobs, machinery and product development in the next three years.