Toyota boss warns Brexit uncertainty could threaten Midlands plant

Toyota has warned that the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit discussions could lead it to shift some UK production elsewhere if concerns around the direction and timetable of the talks are not addressed.

Toyota is concerned that early government assurances that free trade with the European Union would survive Britain’s exit have been replaced by talk of transition periods, Toyota executive vice president Didier Leroy told Reuters.

Talking to Reuters at the Frankfurt Car Show, he said: “A few months ago the UK government was saying, ‘We’re sure we’ll be able to negotiate (a deal) without any trade tax.’ They are not saying that any more.”

He added: “It’s clear that if we have to wait two to three more years to have a clarity on this topic, we will have a big question-mark about our future investment in the country.”

In March Toyota announced plan to start a £240m upgrade to it Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, after receiving assurances from the government about the direction of Brexit. The firm has been making cars in the UK since 1992. The Burnaston plant, near Derby, makes the Auris and the Avensis models.

However, Leroy told Reuters the firm could not wait forever before deciding whether to build a new model at the site.

He said: “We cannot take this kind of decision before we have clarity on the future trade relationship,” said Leroy.

“We will not close the plant tomorrow morning, but if in two to three years we have to decide some future investments, of course the key point will be the competitiveness of this plant in future.”

Leroy warned Reuters on the future of the Derbyshire plant: “The longer we have to wait, the more potential there is to move to another factory.”