Nissan Motor UK Covid-secure car production

Car industry calls for support as 1 in 6 jobs at risk

Nissan Motor UK Covid-secure car production

Up to 1 in 6 people jobs in the UK automotive industry are at risk of redundancy if a dedicated support package is not forthcoming, the sector’s trade body has warned.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has called for cuts in VAT, unfettered access to emergency funding and a permanent part-time furlough scheme.

The organisation also wants policies that would boost consumer confidence – but has stopped short of specifying a new car scrappage scheme.

“UK automotive is fundamentally strong,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“However, the prolonged shutdown has squeezed liquidity and the pressures are becoming more acute.”

A third of the UK automotive industry is still on furlough, said Mr Hawes – “we want those staff coming back to work, not into redundancy”.

The organisation is asking for a government support package similar to that seen in other countries.

In its 2020 Summit held today, the SMMT will reveal that 6,000 automotive jobs have already been lost in June alone.

Brexit is back

UK Automotive Manufacturing Jobs by region

Brexit is another concern for the SMMT. The coronavirus crisis is dominating and “the industry has not the resource, the time nor the clarity to prepare for a further shock of a hard Brexit,” said Mr Hawes.

The organisation wants the government to “turbocharge the negotiations to secure a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU”.

A no-deal Brexit could see UK new car production falling to 850,000 vehicles a year by 2025 – a low not seen since 1953.

This would cost the economy £40 billion.

In contrast, securing a Free Trade Agreement would boost production back to 1.35 million vehicles by 2025 – taking it back to pre-crisis levels.


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Next Mini development delayed due to Brexit

Next-generation Mini delayed by development costs and Brexit worries

Next Mini development delayed due to Brexit

BMW is throttling back on the fourth-generation ‘new’ Mini. The decision is partly due to worries over Britain’s post-Brexit relations with the EU, which muddy the waters in terms of making long-term investments. 

“The lifespan of this platform has been extended… for cost reasons and because of Brexit,” said BMW spokesman Maximilian Schoeberl when talking to Reuters.

Minis more affordable now than in 1959

Last year, BMW Chief Executive Oliver Zipse said the business case would probably not change if the tariffs are “in the range of zero and five percent”. However, if import and export costs are much above that, BMW may be forced to reconsider Oxford’s role, versus its Born facility in the Netherlands.

In 2018, Mini production at the Netherlands facility was up 39 percent on the year before. A total of 211,660 cars, including Mini models and the BMW X1, rolled off the production line. The Oxford plant made 234,501 Minis in 2018.

Ultimately, the all-new model, whenever it arrives, will demand significant updates to both facilities. Exactly what Britain’s relationship is with the EU, financially and otherwise, will directly affect BMW’s decision for that investment. 

Mini Plant Oxford

Registrations of the Mini were down 18 percent in December. Overall sales were also down 4.1 percent in 2019, to 346,639 cars.

However, Mini isn’t the only small car manufacturer to have suffered. Expensive emissions upgrades and poor sales recently forced Opel/Vauxhall to drop its Adam and Viva/Karl models. 

Why you MIGHT need new number plates next year

GB number plates no deal Brexit

UK motorists may still need to splash out on a new set of number plates after the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020. 

Previously, the government had warned British drivers travelling in the European Union that they would need to display a GB sticker on their car EVEN if they had a number plate with the GB identifier.

The pre-Brexit advice was for drivers to replace the Euro-plate with a number plate displaying the GB plate without the EU flag. Alternatively, drivers could hold on to their plastic slice of EU history, providing they displayed a GB sticker without any reference to the EU.

For now, the existing rules will still apply while the UK and the EU negotiate additional arrangements. “The current rules on international driving will continue to apply during the transition period,” the government has said.

In other words, a separate GB sticker ISN’T required when travelling within the European Union if the Euro symbol and GB national identifier are displayed on the number plates. The Euro symbol must be a minimum height of 98mm, have a width between 40 and 50mm, have a reflective blue background with 12 reflecting yellow stars, and must show GB in reflecting white or yellow.

GB sticker on Triumph Stag

Alternatively, motorists can display the Union Flag, Cross of St George, Cross of St Andrew or Red Dragon, but they must be accompanied by letters denoting the country of origin. For example, in the case of Wales, the options are CYMRU, Cymru, CYM, Cym, Wales or WALES.

In all cases, the plates must be accompanied by a GB sticker.

And you thought it was simply a case of sticking a pair of plastic plates on your car. 

The rules are likely to change at the end of the year, when the Euro-plates might be surplus to requirements. For now at least, Remainers can hold on to a thin strip of the EU for a little while longer…  

Brexit barrier on M20 motorway to be dismantled

Operation Brock in Kent

Highways England has confirmed the steel ‘Brexit barrier’ on the M20 in Kent will be removed from Monday.

The barrier had separated three full-width lanes London-bound on the motorway for 15 miles, between Maidstone at junction eight and Ashford at junction nine.

The goal was to create a separate lane for the movement of goods vehicles, the flow of which was expected to be heavily interrupted by a bumpy Brexit. It had been in place since March 2019.

Operation Brock Brexit October

“Removing the Operation Brock barrier is good news for drivers and the people of Kent and reflects the decreased risk of disruption to cross-channel services in the coming months,” said Highways England project director Nicky Potts.

“Operation Brock has provided people  living, working and travelling in and around  Kent with a scalable set of measures to help  limit the impact  to  the county in the event of disruption to services across the English Channel.

“We are grateful for people’s patience  while the barrier has been in  place, and  are looking forward to restoring the motorway to full capacity.”

Taking down the Brexit barrierOperation Brock to go live before Brexit

Things will get worse before they get better, however. The M20 will be closed in both directions on Monday January 13. Then an overnight closure from Tuesday, between 8pm and 6am, will continue for a further 15 nights. The final overnight closure is due on January 28.

Parts of the motorway will be slowed to a 50mph limit, while other areas will get lane restrictions until the work is complete. Highways England expects around 1,500 metres of barrier to be taken down each night.

Official: Brexit is already costing motorists more

Strange questions to car dealers

New research has looked at how the result of the EU referendum in 2016 has affected the cost of motoring in the UK. In the years since Britain voted out, motoring costs, including buying, maintainance, fuel and insurance, have all increased.

The increases may be due to both the uncertainty around Brexit, and how the pound has weakened as a result. Overall, average vehicle ownership costs are up 9.3 percent. That compares with a 7.3 percent rate of inflation over the same period.

In showrooms, the price of a new car has risen by an average of 12.3 percent, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Vauxhall Corsa

Vantage Leasing, which originally published the research, cites the Vauxhall Corsa as an example. While a 1.4i Design five-door was £12,480 in November 2016, that rose to £14,025 by June 2019. That’s a 12.4 percent increase in price.

In terms of insuring your car, the cost is also up, although not by an enormous amount. A year’s insurance in summer 2016 cost an average of £737. During the same period in 2019, the cost was £783, or £46 more. That’s a rise of 6.2 percent.

cost to run a car increases after brexit vote

Looking after your car costs more too. Vehicle maintenance and repairs have risen in price by 9.2 percent over the last three years. Spare parts are up 8.7 percent and tyres are 6.4 percent pricier.

A steady rise in the price of fuel is, however, is a phenomenon much older than the EU referendum. The normal fluctuations combined with the influence of Brexit have seen pump prices higher overall. The average price for a litre of unleaded was £1.16 at the time of the referendum. As of October 2019, the average was £1.27. That’s a jump in price of 9.2 percent.

For a 55-litre fuel tank, that’s an increase of £6.05. Diesel and super unleaded are up 11.1 percent and 11.6 percent respectively over the same period.

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“Since the Brexit referendum was held three and a half years ago, there has been a gradual but very tangible increase in the cost of running a car,” said James Buttrick of Vantage Leasing.

“With so much uncertainty around the details of the UK’s departure from the EU, the automotive industry has found itself one of the worst affected. It’s hard to see that getting any better for the industry or the motoring consumer as we finally head towards Brexit.”

Nissan Sunderland's 10 millionth car

UK car industry needs a ‘world-beating‘ Brexit deal, says SMMT

Nissan Sunderland's 10 millionth car

The main political parties are being urged to ‘put UK automotive at the heart of their economic and trade policies’.

Only a ‘world-beating Brexit trade deal’ would maintain productivity and prosperity for Britain, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned.

Without an ‘ambitious’ trade deal, UK manufacturing would lose 1.5 million vehicles by 2024, costing the country as much as £42.7 billion.

New SMMT research shows World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs on imported components and exported vehicles would add £3.2 billion a year to the cost of UK automotive manufacturing.

That’s the equivalent to 90 percent of the sector’s annual spend on research and development.

WTO deal is ‘worst case scenario’

New Aston Martin DBX at new St Athan factory in Wales

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “UK Automotive’s needs are clear: frictionless trade free of tariffs, with regulatory alignment and continued access to talent.

“Detailed trade negotiations have yet to begin. They will be complex and they will take time. But a close trading relationship is essential to unlock investment so we can deliver our goals: cleaner air, zero carbon emissions, and the ability to go on building our products and marketing them globally.

“Rather than producing two million cars a year by 2020, a no trade deal, WTO tariff worst case scenario could see us making just a million.

“The next government must deliver the ambition, the competitive business environment and the commitment needed to keep automotive in.”

The SMMT says that the UK is well placed to take advantage of the drive to deliver greener vehicles and intelligent mobility, but warns that a bad deal would threaten further investment.

“This would be a tragic waste,” it says.

‘Unprecedented change’

Nissan to review Qashqai production for Brexit

Speaking at the SMMT dinner in London, SMMT president George Gillespie, said: “The automotive sector is going through a period of unprecedented change and we must not let the pressure of Brexit deflect from our focus on a coherent national industrial strategy. Collaboration between industry and government must be stronger than ever.

“We want to work closely with the next government, as we have in the past; united in a common purpose to keep UK Automotive a global player that drives employment, creates wealth and gives all of us pride in what we can do here.”

The UK’s main political parties are gearing up for the general election on the 12 December 2019. This is ahead of the proposed Brexit date of 31 January 2020.

Operation Brock goes live as Brexit deadline extended

Operation Brock Brexit October

Operation Brock, a series of measures to keep Kent traffic moving in the event of post-Brexit disruption, has been activated. The move comes despite the fact that Brexit has been delayed a further three months until the end of January 2020. 

One side of the M20 will be reserved for the flow of Europe-bound lorries and HGVs over 7.5 tonnes. Lorries headed across the channel will be restricted to 30mph between junction eight (Maidstone) and junction nine (Ashford). The London-bound side will be turned into a 50mph contraflow carrying the rest of traffic heading both ways.

This will keep regular in-England commuters ‘safe’ in the case of disruptions to haulage flow across the channel.

Operation Brock: next steps

Beyond this, it’s possible that Manston Airport could be used as a lorry park, while HGV traffic could be directed to the M26, which would be dedicated to cross-border haulage.

How long will it be active?

The last time Operation Brock went live was four days before the March 2019 Brexit deadline. In that instance, an extension was also granted. It’s possible, if not probable that, as in March, Operation Brock will be active for no longer than a month.

Operation Brock: Explained in full

Working closely with the Kent Resilience Forum, the government has implemented the scheme to minimise delays to Europe-bound freight, while protecting local roads from disruption.

Lorries heading for mainland Europe will need to use the coast-bound carriageway of the M20 between junctions eight and nine, with a 30mph speed restriction in place.

All other traffic will run on the London-bound carriageway between these junctions, with two lanes operating at 50mph.

The system goes live ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 October. Delays on the M20 are widely predicted.

The M20 will be kept open in both directions for non-freight traffic, with Operation Brock designed to reduce the impact on local residents, businesses and public services in Kent.

‘Robust plans’

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “We want residents in Kent and hauliers travelling from across the EU to be reassured that there are robust plans in place to deal with any disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“We now need everyone to do their bit – whether you are travelling to see family, heading to work or transporting vital goods around the country, please check before you travel to ensure you know what to expect and have the right documents when heading to the border.”

During Operation Brock, hauliers heading to Europe via Dover or the Channel Tunnel will need to follow the dedicated Operation Brock routes and adhere to any diversions, speed instructions or special instructions.

Hauliers are also advised that they will need to show the right paperwork before reaching the border. Non-compliance will result in fines and further delays.

Traffic officers in Kent will have new and enhanced powers to ensure hauliers comply with the Operation Brock system.

Local residents are advised that from 26 to 27 October there will be overnight closures between junctions seven and nine on the M20, as final works are completed ahead of Brexit.

Policy manager for South East England at Freight Transport Association Heidi Skinner said: “Any move which keeps traffic flowing to and from the coast, and through and around Kent, is to be welcomed in order to keep Britain trading.

“Our members have been asking for clarity on the arrangements for some time, so this news will help them to prepare for a potential no deal Brexit and any resulting traffic disruption which may occur.”

Driving in the EU after Brexit – everything you need to know

Driving in Europe after Brexit

Brexit is coming, deal or no deal, within the month. What does that mean for UK drivers? Among other things, changes and complications when it comes to driving in Europe, both legally and safely. Here’s everything you need to know for driving in Europe after Brexit.

Brexit European driving checklist:

  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • Registration document(s)
  • International driving permit(s)
  • Insurance green card(s)
  • GB sticker

Licence and driving permits

Driving in Europe after Brexit

After we’ve left the EU, deal or not, it’s highly likely that you’ll need an international driving permit (IDP). These can vary depending on what countries you intend to visit, so pick the one you need. You can pick up IDPs from the Post Office. They’re cheap, at £5.50 each, though as above, you may need more than one.

Read our full guide to International Driving Permits, what they’re for, what ones you need and how to get them.

Needless to say, it’s advisable to keep your driving licence and passport close to hand.

Insurance and green cards

Driving in Europe after Brexit

You need insurance where and whenever you drive. However, when it comes to driving in the EU, you will need an insurance green card. To get this, you’ll need to contact your insurer at least a month before your intended European visit.

When driving in Europe, keep these close to hand as well as your insurance documentation.

You’ll need more than one green card if you’re towing anything, like a trailer or a caravan. Likewise, if your policy renews while you’re away. Try to avoid renewal and travel overlapping. 

Vehicle registration documents and identification

Driving in Europe after Brexit

You’ll also need to take your vehicle’s registration documents with you. If it’s your car, you’ll need your V5C. If it’s a rental or a lease, you’ll need a VE103 as proof of your right to operate that vehicle. Keep these close to hand at all times. 

You’ll also need a GB sticker, regardless of if your plates have GB or the European symbol on them. 

Honda Swindon

1 in 3 car firms already cutting jobs due to Brexit

Honda Swindon

The UK automotive industry is already being harmed by Brexit with almost a third of firms admitting in a new survey they have cut jobs.

Firms have also ‘wasted’ over half a billion pounds on preparing for a no-deal Brexit scenario, says trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This is money that could have been invested instead.

Now, the SMMT is calling for an end to ‘dangerous’ no-deal discussions and for all sides to focus on achieving an orderly withdrawal.

The survey by the SMMT also discovered 4 in 5 businesses fear the harmful consequences of a no-deal Brexit – and nearly 12 percent of respondents have already divested from UK operations; 13.4 percent are relocating operations overseas.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “As the Brexit clock ticks ever closer to midnight, this survey reveals the bleak future that awaits this vital sector in the event of ‘no deal’.

“Damage has already been done: investment is haemorrhaging competitiveness being undermined, UK jobs cut and vast sums wasted on the impossibility of preparing for ‘no deal’.

“Make no mistake, every day ‘no deal’ remains a possibility is another day of lost investment, another day that makes it harder to recover investor confidence in the UK.”

The damage is not irreversible, said Hawes, but the UK needs a deal – one that enables ‘business as usual’ during the transition period and, longer term, a broader deal that delivers free and frictionless trade.

The automotive industry is the UK’s single biggest exporter, contributing £18.6 billion to public finances. The SMMT points out that’s more than the NHS’s total annual spend on medicines.

A no-deal Brexit, it adds, would knock £50,000 a minute off the sector’s economic contribution; tariffs on cars and vans alone would cost £5 billion.


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European car industry parking lot

No-deal Brexit would ‘devastate’ EU car industry

European car industry parking lot

A ‘no deal’ Brexit would have an “immediate and devastating impact” on the European automotive industry and Brexit negotiators “have a responsibility” to agree a deal.

In an unprecedented joint statement, car industry leaders from across Europe have united to warn of the “catastrophic consequences” of a no-deal Brexit.

No-deal should be ruled out or, they say, the future of European automotive will be at risk.

The pan-European trade associations and 21 national associations, including the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), have illustrated the severe impact of no-deal on a sector that employs one in 16 of the EU workforce.

No-deal Brexit risks disrupting the deeply integrated nature of the car industry, the statement explains. Just-in-time production would be affected and WTO tariffs on cars and vans would add £5 billion to the EU-UK trade bill.

Car prices for customers would rise as a result.

‘Not just a British problem’

Brand-new British0built Minis ready for export

“We regret Brexit,” said Bernhard Mattes, president of German automotive trade body VDA. “The EU and UK automotive industry need frictionless trade… the UK and the EU should undertake all necessary steps to avoid a no-deal Brexit.”

“Brexit is not just a British problem,” said Christian Peugeot, president of French trade body CCFA. “We it as exporters to the UK market or producers locally, we will inevitably be negatively affected.”

The SMMT’s Mike Hawes said the risk was stark. “A ‘no deal’ Brexit would have an immediate and devastating impact on the industry, undermining competitiveness and causing irreversible and severe damage.

“UK and EU negotiators have a responsibility to work together to agree a deal or risk destroying this vital pillar of our economies.”

Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of European auto maker association ACEA, said the signatories wanted “all sides to rule out a ‘no deal’ scenario as soon as possible”.

What would a no-deal Brexit mean to the car industry?

A single car is made from around 30,000 parts, many of which cross European borders many times during production. Frictionless and tariff-free trade, and regulatory certainty, are therefore vital.

A no-deal Brexit would threaten this, and would also immediately result in the UK no longer benefitting from EU trade agreements and preferential treatment to 30 countries – including Canada, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and South Africa.

No-deal Brexit would make the overall EU market smaller, adds the SMMT, “and potentially less attractive to international trade partners”.

Britain is the second-largest new car market in the EU, behind Germany but ahead of France.

“With so much at stake, it is in the interest of all parties to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit and deliver a managed withdrawal of the UK from the EU.”