Executive Briefings

Layoffs Arrive in Brexit Britain, and Auto Workers Are Up First

In his 50 years working in Britain’s car industry, John Cooper has survived plenty of upheavals. None is scarier than the prospect of Brexit.

Being split off from their biggest market means the job cuts and production slowdown U.K. carmakers have imposed the past few months could be just a prelude to wholesale shutdowns.

The shock is only beginning to hit. Since October, 650 of Cooper’s colleagues have lost their jobs at the factory where Vauxhall Motors churns out Astra hatchbacks. The remaining 1,200 staff worry the plant may close if the U.K. loses tariff-free access to Europe. Across the River Mersey from Vauxhall’s factory, Jaguar Land Rover is planning production cuts.

“People shouldn’t underestimate the dangers that Brexit’s bringing,” Cooper, a union representative, said outside the sprawling factory in the town of Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, where he’s worked since he was 18. “Why would Nissan continue to invest in the north east when it’s got a plant in Spain where it can build the same car without a 10 percent tariff?”

If Prime Minister Theresa May gets her way, by next year Britain will start severing ties with the bloc after a transition period, including quitting the customs union it’s been part of since 1973. Whether duties are imposed after that is still up in the air as London and Brussels wrangle over the terms of their divorce.

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Being split off from their biggest market means the job cuts and production slowdown U.K. carmakers have imposed the past few months could be just a prelude to wholesale shutdowns.

The shock is only beginning to hit. Since October, 650 of Cooper’s colleagues have lost their jobs at the factory where Vauxhall Motors churns out Astra hatchbacks. The remaining 1,200 staff worry the plant may close if the U.K. loses tariff-free access to Europe. Across the River Mersey from Vauxhall’s factory, Jaguar Land Rover is planning production cuts.

“People shouldn’t underestimate the dangers that Brexit’s bringing,” Cooper, a union representative, said outside the sprawling factory in the town of Ellesmere Port, near Liverpool, where he’s worked since he was 18. “Why would Nissan continue to invest in the north east when it’s got a plant in Spain where it can build the same car without a 10 percent tariff?”

If Prime Minister Theresa May gets her way, by next year Britain will start severing ties with the bloc after a transition period, including quitting the customs union it’s been part of since 1973. Whether duties are imposed after that is still up in the air as London and Brussels wrangle over the terms of their divorce.

Read full article