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“Shattering blow” – Honda to announce Swindon plant closure

 Honda plant closure a body blow to UK car industry and logistics firms. Credit: Shutterstock.com
Honda plant closure a body blow to UK car industry and logistics firms. Credit: Shutterstock.com

Honda, the Japanese-headquartered car manufacturer, is expected to announce the closure of its production facilities in the United Kingdom tomorrow with the potential loss of 3,500 jobs. It is anticipated that the manufacturing plant will close in 2022.

Both the British Government and Honda have refused to comment on the closure, first reported by Sky News. If confirmed, the move could put thousands of logistics and support businesses at risk, as well as the immediate Honda workforce that produce 160,000 Honda Civic automobiles annually, 90 percent of which are exported to the United States and the European Union (EU).

Union officials were quick to lay the blame squarely at the door of the Brexit camp, with Des Quinn of the Unite union claiming, “The car industry in the UK over the last two decades has been the jewel in the crown for the manufacturing sector – and now it has been brought low by the chaotic Brexit uncertainty created by the rigid approach adopted by Prime Minister Theresa May.”

Earlier this month Nissan announced that it would shift production of its latest sports utility vehicle from Britain back to Japan, citing Brexit uncertainty as one of the reasons for the move.

Production of Nissan’s X-Trail and the new model Qashqai were expected to take place in the company’s Sunderland plant, following a deal between Nissan and the Government in 2016, which took place after the Brexit vote.

The local Member of Parliament (MP), Conservative Justin Tomlinson, said: “Honda made clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit, as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021.”

A free trade deal signed by Japan and the EU took effect on February 1, and it allows Japan tariff-free access to EU markets.

Meanwhile, the expected UK waiver on safety and security declarations, documents required for the export of goods, has failed to materialize. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) policy head for Brexit, Pauline Bastidon, told FreightWaves that the temporary waiver would prevent hauliers and container operators from having to submit safety and security declarations for each shipment of goods.

EU representatives are not expected to reciprocate with a waiver for goods exported to the United Kingdom.

The waiver, which was expected today and has not been announced, came as seven Labour Party MPs resigned from the party, citing differences over the policy on membership in the EU.

However, Bastidon said, “The politics in Britain is fascinating, but it changes nothing for our FTA members, the key here is firstly will the UK leave the EU on 29 March and secondly will it leave with a ratified deal or not.”

Bastidon also pointed out that the week beginning 11 March is likely to be the last date that the British Government can agree to a deal and hope to get ratification through the various EU processes, including ratification from the European Parliament.

The last date for plenary at the European Parliament is the week beginning 15 April; after this date the European Parliamentary elections will take place and European parliamentarians will not meet again until 11 July.

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.

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