Vauxhall car plant in danger of closure if Brexit makes it ‘unprofitable’

Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port
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More than 1,000 car workers’ jobs could be at risk at the Ellesmere Port plant of Vauxhall Motors.

The plant, owned by French group PSA, could be closed and production moved to an alternative European site, if Brexit makes the site unprofitable.

The warning came today from PSA chief executive and chairman Carlos Tavares in an interview with the Financial Times.

Ellesmere Port, which opened in 1962, employs around 1,100 workers making the Astra model, many of which are exported to the European mainland under the Opel badge.

It is expected to make the next generation Astra, but that decision could be reversed, says Mr Tavares.

“Frankly I would prefer to put it [the Astra car] in Ellesmere Port but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable then I have to protect the rest of the company and I will not do it,” Mr Tavares is quoted as saying.

“We have an alternative to Ellesmere Port.”

The interview followed an admission by Michael Gove yesterday that the Government is now “working on the assumption” of a no-deal Brexit

Mr Gove has been charged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson with delivering Brexit, with or without a deal, by the October 31 deadline.

Mr Gove said his team still aimed to come to an agreement with Brussels but, writing in the Sunday Times, he added: “No deal is now a very real prospect.”

The Confederation of British Industry has warned the Government that neither the UK or EU is ready for a no-deal Brexit.

And the car industry lobby group, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders warned on Friday that “No deal Brexit is simply not an option.”

Car production has been falling in the UK over the past year, amid increasing pleas from the industry for a Brexit deal.

The UK’s automotive industry has received a series of blows in recent months, with Honda announcing it will close its Swindon plant in 2021.

Last week, Jaguar Land Rover reported £395m quarterly losses. It employs around 14,000 staff at plants in the Midlands and Merseyside.

Ford also said its Bridgend engine plant in south Wales would close in September 2020 with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Japanese car producers, including Nissan, have said that Brexit uncertainty is not helping them “plan for the future”.

Earlier this year, Nissan opted to build the next X-Trail model in Japan, rather than in Sunderland.

Trade union Unite today vowed to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to secure Ellesmere Port’s future and demanded that no deal Brexit is taken off the table.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Vauxhall is great British brand with a fantastic, efficient workforce. Unite has been in positive discussions with PSA about a new vehicle agreement and securing new models for Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant.

“All that hard work is now hanging by a thread as Boris Johnson and his government of hard Brexiteers play no deal roulette with the livelihoods of thousands of Vauxhall workers and their colleagues in the supply chain.

“A no deal Brexit, or a deal that throws up barriers and tariffs would be catastrophic for Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port workers and the UK car industry and make plants inefficient, components less attractive and cars built in the UK more expensive for export.”

He added: “Unite is in continuing discussions with PSA. We will not sit back and allow PSA Group to walk away from making cars in the UK to then sell cars made elsewhere back into what is the fifth biggest car market in the world.

“The workforce stands ready to do everything in its power to protect Ellesmere Port jobs and will fight tooth and nail to safeguard car production volumes at the plant.

“We would urge the UK government to meet with us urgently to help us secure the future of both Vauxhall Ellesmere Port and our ‘jewel in the crown’ automotive sector which is now at serious risk following a ramping up of no deal posturing.”

He said: “These jobs matter and once they go they are gone forever, slamming the door on the ability of future generations to prosper from decent well paid work. Boris Johnson and his team need to come to Ellesmere Port and tell this talented workforce directly that they will not send them to the dole queue.

“It is imperative for the future of the livelihoods of thousands of people who depend on Vauxhall Ellesmere Port that a no deal Brexit is taken off the table and a deal reached with the European Union that secures frictionless trade and tariff free access.”

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