UK car makers back EU membership

UK car producers have come out as strong supporters of Britain’s membership of the EU, and a new group has commissioned a major research study into the benefits of belonging to the trading block to underline the ramifications of a potential exit.

According to a report in the Financial Times, car companies, who are major importers and exporters and large employers in the UK, believe the study will show how crucial EU membership is to their position as a driver of growth in the country’s economic recovery.

UK car makers are deeply concerned at the potential impact of a British exit from the EU, with politicians trying to placate voters tempted to vote UKIP in the European elections in May and with a possibility of a referendum on the UK’s membership in 2017. Backed by the SMMT, the research is intended to show that the industry relies heavily on the UK’s membership of the EU and that there is overwhelming opposition to an exit among its members.

With UK car production hitting a six-year high in 2013 and set to pass a four-decade long peak in the next few years UK car makers don’t want to jeopardise the market for a large proportion of their production; roughly 4 in every 10 cars built in the UK are shipped to EU countries. However, with its economy recovering at a faster rate than its European partners, the UK market is a very attractive one for EU carmakers.

The UK also exports over a million engines every year, and carmakers such as Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Honda, BMW and General Motors import billions of pounds worth of parts and components from EU suppliers.

The FT report states that an exit from the EU could raise the prospect of taxes being levied on imports and exports, making UK factories less competitive in the European market, and could also restrict movement of labour or investments.

“The UK’s membership of the EU has always been an important consideration for Toyota, from our original decision to invest here and indeed to this day,” Toyota said in a statement. “Like a lot of international investors in this country, open access to the European Single Market has been and remains crucial to our business success.

Over 80 per cent of cars produced in Toyota’s factory near Derby are exported to continental Europe.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan, which builds more than 500,000 cars a year at its British plant in Sunderland and is one of the country’s most valuable exporters, said in November that the Japanese company would be forced to reconsider its future investments in the UK if it were to leave the EU.

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