Car chiefs warn of ‘knockout blow’ to industry from no-deal Brexit

By Henry Vaughan, Press Association
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said a hard exit from the EU could cost the sector up to £70m a day.

A no-deal Brexit could cost the UK car industry up to £70 million a day, according to a new report.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned that a hard exit from the EU could deliver a “knockout blow” to the sector’s ability to compete.

The trade body’s 2019 UK Automotive Trade Report calculates that delays to production caused by an end to frictionless trade could add up to £50,000 a minute – amounting to £70 million a day in a worst-case scenario.

It also says World Trade Organisation tariffs would amount to £4.5 billion a year for trade in passenger cars alone.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “From an industry point of view, the prospect of a no-deal would be catastrophic.”

He insisted the report is not part of “Project Fear”, adding: “We have tried to take a reasoned, fact-based approach.”

Mr Hawes warned that the industry faces “death by 1,000 cuts”, where a gradual erosion of competitiveness makes it harder to invest.

The SMMT said without the automotive industry the UK would lose its status as the world’s 10th biggest exporter of goods, falling to 14th place behind Belgium, Canada, Mexico and Russia.

It is calling for the next prime minister to make securing a good Brexit deal his number one priority.

“We need a deal. No deal is not an option,” said Mr Hawes.

Addressing business leaders and politicians at the industry’s annual conference in London, he added: “Automotive matters to UK trade and to the economy, and this report shows that, if the right choices are made, a bright future is possible.

“However, no deal remains the clear and present danger.

“We are already seeing the consequences of uncertainty, the fear of no-deal.

“The next PM’s first job in office must be to secure a deal that maintains frictionless trade because, for our industry, no deal is not an option and we don’t have the luxury of time.”