OEMs making cars in the UK want to stay in Europe. 77 per cent of SMMT members say remaining in Europe is best for their business, according to 2016 survey by independent pollster ComRes. Indeed, there is strong support for EU membership across the board, with 88 per cent of large SMMT member companies and 73 per cent of SME members in favour of remaining. This is the second time SMMT members have been canvassed on their Brexit views – and the second time the overwhelming majority have stated that staying in Europe is best for their business.
SMMT commissioned the poll, carried out over a five week period in January and February 2016, to get an up-to-date understanding of the views of its members about the importance of the EU so that this vital sector for the UK economy and jobs can speak with authority in the debate. ComRes interviewed 204 SMMT members online between 14 January and 17 February 2016. Survey respondents make up 43 per cent of full SMMT members (475), so in this respect some may argue that the results are not fully representative. Howevever, when you consider that this is a higher turn out than a general election and that the 204 respondents represent 91.5 per cent of combined SMMT member annual turnover, it is quite comprehensive.
Delving into the reasons why the EU is important to them, SMMT members are most likely to say that access to EU automotive markets has a positive impact on their business (66%). This is followed by a majority saying that access to a skilled workforce (55%) and the ability to influence industry standards and regulations (52%) also have a positive impact on their business. When asked to provide open-ended feedback, some of the key reasons given for staying in the EU included the importance of economic and market stability, securing the UK’s global competitiveness, and access to the single market’s free trade opportunities.2
Looking ahead to the threat of a potential Brexit, 59 per cent of SMMT members say it would have a negative impact on their business in the medium- to long-term, with a further one in five uncertain about the nature and extent of that impact (18% don’t know). When those foreseeing a negative impact were asked why, fears included becoming uncompetitive and losing business to EU rivals, while the risk of future investment being diverted to the continent also featured highly.
Dr Ian Robertson, member of the board of management, BMW AG, said, “As a major employer, exporter and investor, the BMW Group is committed to the UK which is home to two of our brands, MINI and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Our experience shows that the free movement of components, finished products and skilled workers within the EU is extremely beneficial to British-based business. We firmly believe Britain would be better off if it remained an active and influential member of the EU, shaping European regulations which will continue to impact the UK whatever the decision in June.”
Tony Walker, deputy managing director, Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK, said, “Our UK operations are fully integrated within our European business – exporting nearly 90 percent of all UK built vehicles. We are very satisfied with the performance our UK operations and are committed to our employees and investments. We also recognise that the UK’s future relationship with the European Union is a matter for the British people to decide. After considered review, we believe that continued membership of the European Union is best for our business and for our competitiveness in the longer term.”
Rory Harvey, managing director and chairman of Vauxhall, said, “The UK is the fourth largest global market for Vauxhall’s parent company GM and the largest EU market. We are part of a fully integrated European company where we benefit from the free movement of goods and people, and we believe not to be part of the EU would be undesirable for our business and the sector as a whole.”