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Motor industry chief warns over impact of Brexit on investment

The boss of the SMMT said £347m was earmarked for new models and facilities in the UK compared with £647.4m in the same period in 2017.

Investment in the British motor industry has fallen by nearly a half in a year, with uncertainty over Brexit being blamed.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said £347 million of investment was earmarked for new models and facilities in the UK in the first half of this year, compared with £647.4 million in the same period in 2017.

The trade association is calling for the Government to safeguard jobs in the sector and to end the current uncertainty about the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU post-Brexit.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes (Jeff Spicer/PA)

Chief executive Mike Hawes said: “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 Brexit dividend for our industry Mike Hawes, SMMT

“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.”

Adding that the best model for customs and trade with the EU was the current one, he said: “There is no Brexit dividend for our industry, particularly in what is an increasingly hostile and protectionist global trading environment.”

Car giant BMW has also aired concerns over the future of the motoring industry post-Brexit.

The German giant employs around 8,000 people in the UK, with its plant in Oxford producing the popular Mini range.

But senior director Stephan Freismuth said delays in importing components would put the operation under serious threat, potentially forcing UK closures.

BMW, which builds the Mini at a plant in Oxford, has also expressed concerns about Brexit (Steve Parsons/PA)

He told the Financial Times: “We always said we can do our best and prepare everything but if, at the end of the day, the supply chain will have to stop at the border, then we cannot produce our products in the UK.”

It comes after plane manufacturer Airbus warned it could also pull out of the UK with the loss of thousands of jobs if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Airbus sent shockwaves throughout British industry and the Government when it said it would “reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country” if Britain was forced to leave the single market and customs union in March 2019 without any transition agreement in place.

Airbus employs 14,000 people at 25 sites across the country.

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