New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to rule out a no-deal Brexit by the head of car industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
SMMT boss Mike Hawes has long warned of the dangers posted by Britain leaving the European Union without a trade deal in place, and reiterated that in a letter to Johnson, who took over as the UK’s Prime Minister from Theresa May earlier this week.
Johnson campaigned for Brexit during the 2016 referendum over Britain’s EU membership, and has repeatedly said that he will leave without a deal in place on 31 October – the current deadline – if the EU doesn’t compromise over issues such as the Northern Ireland ‘backdrop’.
In his letter, Hawes congratulated Johnson on his appointment and highlighted the “dramatic and exciting change” the industry is undergoing with new technology and the shift to electrification.
Noting that the automotive industry contributes £18.6 billion to the UK economy, Hawes wrote: “The UK sector remains strong, with high levels of productivity, a skilled and flexible workforce and first-rate research and engineering facilities, so we are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that emerge.”
However, Hawes added that the industry needs “the right policy, business and trading environment if we are to thrive”. He called for Johnson to invest in charging infrastructure for electrified vehicles and increase customer incentives to buy them, as well as supporting the construction of a gigafactory for producing batteries in the UK.
“We must make the UK the most attractive destination for investors, creating an internationally competitive business environment and developing skills in new digital technologies," he said. "Above all, we must ensure the sector continues to enjoy – without interruption – preferential trade with critical markets around the world, including the EU.
“A no-deal Brexit presents an existential threat to our industry. We are highly integrated with Europe, and a no-deal Brexit would result in huge tariff costs and disruption that would threaten production, as well as further undermining international investors’ confidence in the UK. We need a deal with the EU that secures frictionless and tariff free trade. No-deal Brexit is simply not an option.”