Billions of euros, millions of jobs: Europe's carmakers warn on no-deal Brexit

23 September 2019 - 08:55 By Reuters
A lorry carrying new cars arrives to cross the Channel at the Port of Dover in Kent.
A lorry carrying new cars arrives to cross the Channel at the Port of Dover in Kent.
Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images

A month before Britain is due to quit the European Union, the bloc's carmakers have joined forces to warn of billions of euros in losses in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with production stoppages costing £50,000 (about R928,000) a minute in Britain alone.

Britain is scheduled to quit the EU on October 31, but businesses have grown increasingly concerned at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's apparent lack of progress towards a new withdrawal deal to replace the proposals of his predecessor, Theresa May, which the British parliament rejected three times.

In a statement, groups including the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers and 17 national groups warned of the impact of “no-deal” on an industry which employs 13.8 million people in the European Union, including Britain, or 6.1% of the workforce.

“The UK's departure from the EU without a deal would trigger a seismic shift in trading conditions, with billions of euros of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability on both sides of the Channel,” they said in a statement on Monday.

If the two sides revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) trading rules, the likely consequence of a disorderly Brexit, the groups warned that the necessary tariffs will add €5.7 billion euros (roughly R93bn) to the EU-Britain car trade bill.

The European car industry is dependent on heavily integrated cross-border supply chains, which rely for their effectiveness on a zero-tariff, almost border-free environment within the EU's custom union.

Britain's car industry, which is almost entirely foreign-owned, is exceptionally vulnerable, as it is dominated by factories owned by German, French and Japanese carmakers.