The UK car industry could be stung with export charges worth £1.2bn a year if Britain leaves the EU, threatening the future of an industry that includes 13,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the South East alone. This week, BMW, which employs over 4,000 workers at its plant in Oxford, added its voice to those warning of the risk of Brexit and the damage that it could do to the South East.
The car industry accounts for around 10 per cent of Britain’s trade in goods and in 2014 supported almost 799,000 British jobs. It has been a rare bright spot for the British economy in recent years, thanks in large part to the fact that nearly half of the vehicles built in the UK are sold tariff-free inside the world’s largest single market.
A poll by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in 2014 found that 92 per cent of automotive companies think Britain is stronger and safer in Europe, and car manufacturers have said that being in Europe is critical for them. This is continuing the long line of large, medium and small businesses coming out to make the case for staying in Europe.
The motor industry is incredibly important to the South East; just last week we got the news that BMW Cowley had broken all production records, with Minis produced in Oxford being exported all over Europe and the world. And Southampton is now the leading vehicle handling port in the UK, with growing exports of British cars abroad leading to Associated British Ports investing in new infrastructure and increased apprentice numbers.
If Britain lost access to the Single Market, it is likely that manufacturers would suddenly face the same 10 per cent tariff on their exports to the EU as their counterparts in the US and Japan. The average cost of an exported UK-made car is now £21,800, meaning manufacturers could be charged an extra £2,180 per vehicle. That would have a catastrophic effect on our motor industry.