Theresa May. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREAS GEBERT
Theresa May. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREAS GEBERT

London — A no-deal Brexit would damage the car industry in Britain and the EU by raising costs and sowing chaos for car makers and consumers alike, the head of Britain’s car industry warned on Tuesday.

With less than eight months until Britain is due to exit the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has yet to find a proposal to maintain economic ties with the bloc that pleases both sides of her divided party and is acceptable to negotiators in Brussels.

May has stepped up planning for a so-called no-deal Brexit that would see the world’s fifth-largest economy crash out of the EU on March 29 2019, a step that could spook financial markets and dislocate trade flows across Europe and beyond.

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt pressed the government’s message on Tuesday, saying the "real chance of no-deal" that would hurt both sides could be stopped if the EU adopted a "pragmatic and sensible" approach that prioritised jobs.

Mike Hawes, CE of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said car makers were increasingly concerned about the lack of clarity around the manner of Britain’s departure from the EU.

That has raised the prospect of Britain leaving with no deal and falling back on World Trade Organisation rules that could leave British car exporters facing EU import tariffs of about 10%.

"No-deal … is just not an option. It would be seriously damaging to the industry not just in the UK but in Europe as well," Hawes told reporters.

At stake is the future of one of Britain’s few manufacturing success stories since the 1980s — a car industry employing more than 850,000 people and generating annual turnover of $110bn. Much of the industry is owned by foreign companies.

The world’s biggest car makers, including Toyota, BMW and Ford, have urged Britain to ensure they can import and export without hindrance after Brexit.

Reuters

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