Stop the ‘no deal car crash’

Get into ‘top gear’ with EU deal to safeguard UK car industry, Unite tells govt

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Ministers need to put their foot on the accelerator to get a deal with the EU that safeguards the UK automotive industry – employing about 800,000 workers directly and over two million in the wider economy, Unite said today (Friday October 2).

Unite is launching its Get a Deal campaign aimed at MPs, particularly Tory MPs in the so-called ‘red wall’ seats where car plant workforces live, so that the UK auto industry, which has enjoyed a renaissance over the last three decades, is not sacrificed on ‘the altar of a deal at any price’.

Unite’s autumn campaign – launched today with just 90 days until the transition period ends on 31 December – is to ensure that the car industry, the jewel in the crown of British manufacturing, is not irrevocably damaged by a ‘no deal car crash’ and that its concerns are truly reflected in an acceptable trade deal.

Unite is concerned not just for those directly employed, but also all the other businesses and jobs who will be hit by no deal or a ‘thin’ trade deal. Such an outcome will cause a ripple effect negatively impacting on pubs, cafes, newsagents and the business ‘ecosystems’ that rely on the car plants.

Unite’s fears are heightened by the recent leaked letter from the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost, which revealed car parts from Japan and Turkey used in the UK will not be treated as British, so, as a result, some exports may see higher tariffs – and the UK, so far, has failed to get a deal on this.

Major sticking point

A major sticking point is that the average UK-produced car content is 41 per cent British-made components, according to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), when 50 per cent is the threshold for the Rules of Origin content which would be integral to an acceptable trade deal.

Unite is standing by for a call from Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove so that the union can discuss the government’s proposals to safeguard the automotive sector, its supply chain and the millions of jobs at stake in the face of this issue and the enormous problems the industry faces at the border if there are no practical customs arrangements.

‘Awaiting call from Gove’

“I’m standing by for a call from Michael Gove because it is absolutely vital that the government puts its foot on the negotiating accelerator to ensure that the UK car industry, which has enjoyed such success in recent years, is not sacrificed on the altar of getting a deal at any price,” said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.

“Hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs and the future of whole communities hang in the balance,” commented Unite national officer for automotive industries Des Quinn.

“The post-Brexit economic prospects will look very bleak for the UK without a flourishing and vibrant car industry – and threatens the development of electric vehicles and all the jobs that will be created.

“JLR, one of the UK’s biggest employers with nearly 40,000 workers directly employed, requires 1,100 trucks a day delivering parts and components to keep it running at maximum efficiency.

“Those trucks must not be stuck idling in a Kent lay-by causing production and jobs to be lost because the government wants a deal that suits its narrow objectives, without a care for the livelihoods of working people and the UK economy.”

‘Get a deal’

Unite national officer for automotive industries Steve Bush added, “The Get a Deal campaign is aimed at the public putting pressure on MPs to get a deal that strongly safeguards the interests of the automotive sector and its supply chain.

“We are particularly targeting Tory MPs in ‘red wall’ seats where many car workers and their families live. Without those car plants working smoothly and at full capacity, hopes of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda for the UK’s most disadvantaged regions will disappear as the dole queues lengthen.

“The automotive sector faced challenges before the pandemic struck, such as reducing carbon emissions and the green agenda – and this had been compounded by Covid-19 – but ministers seem complacent in the face of these challenges,” concluded Bush.


View the Get a Deal campaign webpage

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By Shaun Noble

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