Ford eyes move out of the UK as Brexit concerns mount

Ford currently has 13,000 employees in the UK but says the uncertainty around Brexit is threatening its operations there. It has vowed to do “whatever action is necessary to preserve the competitiveness of our European business”, including possibly moving jobs offshore.

Its main facilities in the UK are manufacturing plants in Brigend, Dagenham and Halewood, which employ a combined 5,000 people and a research and development centre with 3,000 staff.

Ford says a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for the industry

A spokesperson for the carmarker said: “We have long urged the UK Government and Parliament to work together to avoid the country leaving the EU on a no-deal, hard-Brexit basis on March 29.

“Such a situation would be catastrophic for the UK auto industry and Ford’s manufacturing operations in the country.”

Ford had already said that a no-deal Brexit could cost it up to US$1 billion. The company recently confirmed it would offer around 370 voluntary redundancies at its Bridgend facility to help ensure “sustainably profitable business” in the UK.

Labour’s Carwyn Jones, a former First Minister of Wales, said he was concerned for the Ford employees and blamed the May government for failing to resolve the uncertainty over Brexit.

“We’re six or seven weeks away from it and companies like Ford are saying, ‘look we can’t wait any longer, we’re going to have to put in place contingency plans’ and that’s deeply worrying,” he said.

“We need to make sure that we get to an agreement and certainty as quickly as possible.”

The UK government supported a bill rejecting a no-deal Brexit but the amendment has no legal effect. With the date for Brexit locked in for 29 March, a no-deal situation is increasingly likely, though bookmakers still have ‘no deal’ as the less likely scenario.

Industry-wide malaise among UK carmakers

Ford’s concern comes less than a week after its competitor Nissan decided to move production of its new X-Trail model from Sunderland to Japan.

Toyota also recently revised its 2019 profit forecast downwards, citing concerns over a no-deal Brexit. Toyota Senior Managing Officer Masayoshi Shirayanagi warned that the company “cannot avoid the negative impact no matter how much we prepare beforehand if Britain leaves the EU with no deal.”

The UK car production industry hit a five-year low in 2018 with the number of units it produced down 9.1% to 1.5 million. Investment in the industry also slumped by 50% last year with Brexit uncertainty and a downturn in diesel sales due to concerns over new emissions regulations considered the main reasons for the decline.

Header image credit: Ford Motor Company

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