Staying in Europe vital to future of UK automotive

The Evoque being manufactured at Halewood. Photography attributed to JLR.
UK automotive supports 800,000 jobs and contributes £15.5bn annually to the economy – image courtesy of JLR.

Ahead of tomorrow's referendum vote on the UK’s membership of the EU, the UK automotive industry has today restated its view that staying in the European Union is best for its business and best for British jobs.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the UK automotive industry, wants to ensure there is absolute clarity on the sector’s position given recent misrepresentations in the Europe debate.

The industry is a huge employer, supporting 800,000 jobs across the UK and contributing £15.5bn annually to the economy.

The benefits of staying in Europe:

Before the start of the campaigning period, SMMT commissioned a survey of its members – which includes car and commercial vehicle manufacturers, parts suppliers, aftermarket companies and other companies large and small.

An overwhelming majority of 77% firms surveyed said remaining in Europe would be the best for their business, with only a minority 9% saying leaving would be best.

Notably no large company said that an exit would be in their business’ best interests.

Unrestricted access to the world’s largest single market; the negotiating strength of the EU to secure international trade deals; the ability to shape technical regulations, and free movement of labour all provide significant benefits to UK businesses.

This is why SMMT member companies large and small are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU.

It has emerged from the recession stronger, more productive and more competitive, and is now a leading global player, with exports at record levels and vehicle production at the highest level for more than a decade.

The industry is export led with around 80% of vehicles heading abroad and over half of those (57.5%) destined for the rest of the EU.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes commented “UK Automotive is globally competitive, securing record levels of investment, creating tens of thousands of jobs annually and exporting to over 100 countries.

“We want this success to continue rather than jeopardise it by increasing costs, making our trading relationships uncertain and creating new barriers to our single biggest and most important market, Europe.

Remaining will allow the UK to retain the influence on which the unique and successful UK automotive sector depends.”

Supporting comments from senior figures within UK-based automotive companies:

Chief financial officer of JLR, Ken Gregor, said: “Remaining in the EU – our largest market – will increase Jaguar Land Rover’s chances to grow, create jobs and attract investment in future technologies.

“Our European supply chain has been fundamental in helping us to meet customer expectations worldwide and achieve sustainable, profitable growth.”

Deputy managing director, Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK, Tony Walker said: “We believe that continued membership of the European Union is best for our business and for our competitiveness in the longer term.”

Member of the board of management, BMW AG, Dr Ian Robertson said: “We firmly believe Britain would be better off if it remained an active and influential member of the EU, shaping European regulations which will continue to impact the UK whatever the decision on Thursday.”

Managing director and Chairman of Vauxhall, Rory Harvey said: “We are part of a fully integrated European company where we benefit from the free movement of goods and people. We believe not to be part of the EU would be undesirable for our business and the sector as a whole.”

Chief executive, GKN PLC, Nigel Stein said: “We see a real benefit in remaining in the EU. A vote to leave will not mean manufacturing investment disappears overnight, but over time a UK outside the EU will be disadvantaged and will lose the investment it needs to maintain our industries.”

Group chief executive of Magal Engineering Limited – a mid-sized Tier 1 components supplier, Gamil Magal said: “Full unhindered access to the European single market is essential for Magal Engineering’s UK operations and growth.”