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Leaving the EU: Automotive Sector

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2017

8. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the automotive sector. (901642)

I have frequent discussions with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The UK continues to demonstrate that it is an attractive place for future investment. Companies such as Nissan, BMW and Toyota continue to invest, thanks to our highly skilled workforce, the strong partnership between the Government and industry and long-term investment in new technology and innovation.

I am sure the Secretary of State is aware that some car manufacturers are questioning whether to make further investments in the UK because they are uncertain about the validity of type approvals after we have left the European Union. When will the Secretary of State be in a position to confirm that they will indeed be valid and that the trucks shipping components will not be stuck in long queues at either Dover or Calais?

I have been very clear in my discussions with the industry, and, as I said earlier, last week we had a roundtable at No. 10 with the Prime Minister. It is essential for our trading relationship with the European Union not only to be tariff-free, but to allow the continuation of a means of production that involves multiple components going back and forth, often at very short notice. There are questions about, for instance, type approval and rules of origin, and we are working with the industry to ensure that those matters are part of the deal that we want to achieve. That is a course that I know Members in all parts of the House would commend.

Mitsubishi’s headquarters are in Cirencester, where it employs 250 people and supports 113 dealerships throughout the UK. I wholeheartedly endorse my right hon. Friend’s remarks about needing to secure a Brexit agreement that supports the automotive sector, so that we can protect those jobs.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The industry is aware of the firmness of our intention. It makes no sense to disrupt what has been a very successful relationship between this country and some of the home countries of those manufacturers: that is very clear in all our minds.

Our successful car manufacturing sector exports nearly 1 million cars a year to the rest of the European Union. However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said:

“Brexit is the greatest challenge of our times”.

What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that there are no costly tariffs or time-consuming customs checks in the sector after we leave the EU?

We met the SMMT and all members of the sector to discuss every aspect of the challenges and opportunities ahead. The hon. Lady is of course right that Brexit is very much on the minds of every motor manufacturer, which is why the discussions we have had reinforced our commitment not only to secure a good deal at high level, but to make sure all the particular aspects for that industry are addressed. The industry was also enthusiastic about our clear commitment, with mounting enthusiasm being shown on the part of our partners, big and small, to invest in the future and to make sure that what makes Britain attractive as a place to locate continues to be so in the future.

Ten years in low-paid work and then four years a Jaguar apprentice, I will never forget Warren waxing lyrical about the job that he loves, and moving into, in his words, the house of his dreams with the woman of his dreams. Does the Secretary of State begin to understand that, as a consequence of this Government’s disastrous mishandling of Brexit, investment has fallen by over 50%? Does he begin to recognise the damage the Government are doing to workers like Warren and the jewel in the crown of British manufacturing?

If the hon. Gentleman talks to people in the motor industry, as in other industries, he will know that no one is more vigorous and active than I am in meeting prospective investors to explain our strategy and the attractiveness of the UK. As a result of the industry’s work, supported by the Government, we have had a commitment from BMW to build the electric Mini in the UK, Toyota is investing a quarter of a billion pounds in Derbyshire, Nissan has confirmed that it will build two new models in Sunderland, and other discussions are continuing. That work, in the context of the need for continued good access to the European market, is giving confidence to the industry. I would have hoped that it was a matter of consensus across the House that we should maintain that confidence, rather than seek to undermine it.