Protecting the car industry after Brexit: a frictionless supply chain
Today, Unite is holding a major conference in Birmingham called Securing the future of the UK auto sector. It will bring together workers, employers and experts from the British car manufacturing industry to look at the prospects for this key industry after Brexit. The Prime Minister’s intention to trigger Article 50 and start the negotiations for leaving the European Union this Wednesday makes the conference especially relevant. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has sent a message of support, and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has said:
“A cliff-edge Brexit will isolate the UK’s automakers and workers at the very time when the global industry is undergoing a technological revolution. It must not happen.”
The union is calling for tariff-free and barrier-free access to the single market – best achieved by remaining a member of the single market, which would also protect working people’s rights, and the customs union. That would deliver what Unite call ‘a frictionless supply chain’ for the car industry.
This is common cause across the industry. Len McCluskey will be speaking alongside Professor David Bailey from Aston University (you’ll probably recognise him from all the times he’s appeared on the news as the acknoweldged top expert on the industry) and Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Attending the conference will be union representatives and workers from all the major car and vehicle manufacturers and the industry supply chain in the UK.
Len McCluskey has also said:
“There are almost one million UK workers engaged in building nearly two million vehicles every year. This industry contributes billions to the Treasury and provides decent jobs for our communities.
“A ‘bad’ Brexit will put this at risk. We cannot have a Brexit that suits the City of London, but neglects our manufacturing heartlands because that is to consign these communities to a poorer future. The money our members earn is spent in their communities, supporting other local jobs and services. Sadly, this cannot always be said for the financial high rollers. So I appeal to the prime minister, when you trigger Article 50 take the opportunity to make it abundantly clear to manufacturing workers and our auto employers that their futures are your priority.”
The car industry is the spine of manufacturing in the UK, providing skilled, well-paid jobs not only on the production line, but in component manufacturing, research and development, design, repair shops, and in associated industries like steel. Someone has to sell the cars, as well, and the UK now exports more cars than ever before.
And of course similar points could be made about the whole manufacturing sector in the UK, which may employ directly only a fraction of the numbers who used to work in it, but still sustains our economy and underpins the tax revenues that provide quality public services. So the fight to defend the car industry is of vital importance to all of us. That’s the message Unite – and the TUC – are hoping to send today.