Brexit and the car industry

Another Europe member Dave Levy discusses latest developments with the car industry and Brexit.

Picture: Peter Moore (CC).

When did Brexit begin to disintegrate? For some the day Brexit died was when Tobias Ellwood, a Tory backbench MP, made a speech suggesting that the UK should rejoin the single market. Others will argue that it should be dated from this month with two events just this week underlining the chaos and lost opportunity caused by Brexit.

The first is the extraordinary admission by Nigel Farage that Brexit has failed. While he, of course, blames the Conservative party’s execution, the fact is the people he wanted to conduct the negotiations and supervise the withdrawal were in charge. He’s talking as usual out of his wrong hole. Farage’s statements show the vulture capitalists motivations of Brexit, signposted by Prof Minford in his testimony to one of the select committees when he predicted the demise of the car industry and saw it as a worthwhile cost.

The company owning Vauxhall motors, Stellantis, who have factories in Ellesmere Port, Luton and across Europe has raised the alarm that due to the failure old Britishvolt, Vauxhall will be unable to make motor cars with sufficient British parts to export to the European Union when the next phase of the customs rules come in. He has called for the British government to negotiate a time extension for the implementation of more rigorous rules of origin which had been agreed in the future trade and cooperation agreement. This call has been echoed by other European based car manufacturers, and was picked up by the Guardian.

It is a tragic, if not logical conclusion, that this crisis jeopardising tens of thousands of jobs has been caused by the failure to successfully found a British battery manufacturer capable of building batteries suitable for motor vehicles.

Battery technology and its innovation have been the key to technical/technology mobility. Without historic investment we would not have phones that fit in our pocket, nor laptops that fit in our satchels; we would still be carrying the famous phone brick and computers once known as ‘luggable’.

The Department of Trade is now prostrating itself in competition with the EU’s member states and companies looking for foreign investment to bring a factory to the UK. But why would anyone do that when they can locate within the EU and avoid the non-tariff import barriers to the 400m person single market?

Britain needs an industrial policy, one which membership of the European Union would allow us to fund. The goal of such an industrial policy must be to create a balanced economy, not one based exclusively on financial or professional services. As it stands, the UK’s battery production capability is the lowest in Europe. So, with no domestic supply and no easy access to the European market, the UK is once again stuck with the worst of both worlds.

This crisis illustrates the self-harm that Brexit has caused and will continue to cause unless we rejoined the Customs Union and the Single Market at the earliest opportunity.