The head of Ford of Europe has issued a fresh warning that a no-deal Brexit would be a “catastrophe” for the motor industry.
Chairman Steven Armstrong said the motor giant would have to look again at its manufacturing “footprint” in the UK in the event of a disorderly departure from the EU.
Giving evidence to the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, Mr Armstrong insisted the decision last month to close the firm’s engine plant at Bridgend with the loss of 1,700 jobs was not directly linked to concerns about Brexit.
I have been very vocal publicly that a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for our industrySteven Armstrong, Ford of Europe
However, he said that if the firm were to face tariffs and “frictions” at the border as a result of a no-deal Brexit it would put a “significant burden” on their business.
While it would not mean the immediate closure of all the firm’s remaining facilities in the UK, it would make it “much more difficult” for them to be competitive.
“I have been very vocal publicly that a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for our industry,” he said.
He added: “We have previously publicly quoted that that could be as much as a billion dollars a year in incremental costs, be it tariffs or friction at the borders.
That doesn't mean that we would immediately close all the facilities in the UK but it would make it much more difficult for the facilities to be competitiveSteven Armstrong, Ford of Europe
“I have also been very clear that that would cause us to have to think about what our footprint would be moving forward.
“That doesn’t mean that we would immediately close all the facilities in the UK, but it would make it much more difficult for the facilities to be competitive.
“That is just a fact of the business I am in.”
Mr Armstrong said the decision to close Bridgend followed a sharp fall in forecast demand for the new Dragon engine which was to have been built at the plant.
“In the last two years or so there has been a significant change in the dynamic in the auto industry. We have seen a shift out of internal combustion engines towards more electrified products,” he said.
“The volume for the Dragon engine globally has reduced. We have the capacity to make Dragon engines in Mexico, in Bridgend and in India. We don’t have the volume to fill each of those.”
Mr Armstrong said he hoped the company would continue to employ more 10,000 people in the UK and he denied that they were “shafting” their British workers.
“We are not the kind of company that shafts its British workers.
“The centre of our commercial vehicle is here in the UK, the design and development of all our Transits and other commercial vehicles globally is done here,” he said.
“We produce more than 50% of all our diesel engines globally in Dagenham, we have opened a brand new mobility centre in London to develop all of the smart mobility solutions for Europe, and we produce transmissions in Halewood.”