Honda closes factory – is Brexit to blame?

Brexit and global manufacturing trends are proving to be a double whammy for car factory workers in Britain.


Brexit adds a "go-slower" stripe
(Image credit: Paul Harmer Photography Ltd)

"For at least a year, bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and manufacturers' association the EEF and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have been telling ministers that the uncertainty caused byBrexit would have serious consequences," says Larry Elliott in The Guardian.

So the news that 3,500 jobs will be lost when Honda closes its Swindon plant by 2022 "will make the employers' organisations even more insistent that a no-deal outcome should be ruled out". Brexit isn't the only factor, but it "played its part", as shown by Japanese lobbying for a softer Brexit. Honda's decision will "add to the already considerable pressure on Theresa May".

Those blaming Brexit "should listen to what the company has to say", says Ross Clark in The Daily Telegraph. Not only has it explicitly denied a link between the two, but it has said that "it is also closing a plant in Turkey, and will not be shifting any production to EU countries". Honda would have closed its Swindon plant, Brexit or no Brexit. Indeed, you could even argue that European pledges to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040 have left the industry in "a huge state of flux".

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Still, leaving the EU won't make it easier to encourage further investment from car companies to replace the lost jobs, says Liam Proud of Reuters. More than half of UK-assembled cars are shipped to the continent and "a post-Brexit immigration crackdown" will make it harder to find skilled workers, "something the UK car industry already struggles with, judging by the sector's 5,000 unfilled vacancies". Last year saw inward investment in new production capacity fall by half. Brexit will give the UK's car industry a "go-slower stripe its workers will hardly appreciate".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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