Vauxhall owner could pull production from UK plant over Brexit

Vauxhall owner could pull production from UK plant over Brexit

The owner of Vauxhall has warned that the car giant will cease production at its Ellesmere Port factory if Brexit makes it unprofitable.

PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares said he would build future Vauxhall Astras and Opel Astras in southern Europe in the event that Britain could not achieve a satisfactory exit from the EU.

This would threaten the closure of the plant in Cheshire, which employs more than 1,000 people.

Vauxhall’s only other UK factory is in Luton, Bedfordshire, where it builds vans.

Mr Tavares told the Financial Times: “Frankly , I would prefer to put it (the Astra car) in Ellesmere Port but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable then I have to protect the rest of the company and I will not do it.”

He added: “We have an alternative to Ellesmere Port.”

PSA announced last month that it planned to build the next generation of the Astra at the factory, but warned that this was conditional on the final terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc.

Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston Justin Madders said the closure of the factory would be “absolutely devastating for the area”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “The Vauxhall plant is a symbol of the growth of Ellesmere Port over the last 50 years or so and we absolutely cannot afford to lose it because, once those highly-skilled, well-paid permanent jobs go, they never get replaced by jobs at the same level.”

He went on: “I never thought in my lifetime that we would have a Government actively pursuing a policy that’s going to absolutely destroy manufacturing industry in this country.”

Mr Madders added: “There’s a little bit of me that still hopes that this is all an incredibly expensive elaborate bluff by Boris Johnson to get some changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, but I also fear that now he’s deadly serious about this and clearly any opportunity I get to stop no-deal I will take it.”

John Cooper, from the Unite union, told the programme: “The lunacy of a no-deal Brexit is a problem for automotive. It’s a problem for Vauxhall Motors as it is for all other car companies, but we stand ready to make sure that we do everything in our possible power to ensure that car production is maintained at Ellesmere Port.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “We are working very closely with all industry – including the automotive industry, which is one of our greatest success stories.

“Obviously the PM would prefer to leave with a deal and we will continue to work closely with business in the lead-up to October 31.”

Car production has been falling in the UK over the past year, amid increasing pleas from the industry for a Brexit deal.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told Boris Johnson on Friday that a no-deal Brexit was an “existential threat” to the industry.

It wrote to the Prime Minister stating that withdrawing from the EU without an agreement could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and create a hole in the economy.

The UK’s automotive industry has suffered a series of blows in recent months, with Honda announcing that it will close its Swindon factory in 2021, and Ford saying its Bridgend engine plant in South Wales will close in September 2020 with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

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