A perfect storm of the government’s incompetence is threatening the hard work of the UK’s car workers who have worked tirelessly to make the car industry the ‘jewel in our manufacturing crown’ Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said today (Monday 24 September).

Moving an emergency motion at Labour Party conference on the crisis in the car industry, Tony Burke warned that the government’s chaotic approach to Brexit and failure to support a just transition to electric vehicles risked the very future of the UK car industry. 

Addressing conference Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “There are two big tests which will define our automotive industry for years to come: Brexit and the just transition to electrification – and the government is failing both tests. The UK’s largest car maker, Jaguar Land Rover, has just put 2,000 workers onto a three-day week.

“48 hours later BMW announced an early annual shutdown at the Mini factory in Cowley for April to avoid the catastrophic effects of a ‘hard Brexit’ for maintenance and re-tooling for the electric Mini. Honda said it would commit to staying in the UK but a hard Brexit would add on-costs running to tens of millions of pounds in tariffs and because closing Swindon was too costly. Behind the scenes we hear similar concerns from car makers and the supply chain. The timing is no coincidence.

“It comes as the government’s chaotic bungling of the Brexit negotiations reaches its most dangerous stage - raising the prospect of a ‘No Deal Brexit’. We’ve seen Dominic Raab’s ‘no deal’ technical papers. We’ve seen the fantasy ‘hard Brexit plans’ of Rees-Mogg and David Davis. We’ve seen the humiliation of a prime minister in denial.

“Like aftershocks, with every fantasy, with every blunder comes a real and lasting industrial impact. The whole of the UK automotive industry is clear. A ‘no deal’ Brexit is simply unacceptable. When an industry employing 200,000 workers sounds a warning – what do you suppose is the response? The prime minister unconvincingly parrots – ‘We will get a good deal.’ The hard-right Brexiteer Bernard Jenkins MP tells us that Jaguar Land Rand Rover ‘is just making it all up!’

“Tell that to over 1,000 lorry drivers who bring components to and from UK and the EU each day. Tell that to the 10,000 JLR workers on the production tracks. Tell that to the thousands of workers in the supply chain who rely on these contracts.”

On the transition from combustion engines to electric powered vehicles, Tony Burke added: “Conference the government’s bungled approach to transitioning the industry from the combustion engines to electrification is a disaster with unilateral announcements on CO2 emissions made with no consultation with the industry or with our members.

“The task now falls to the Labour party to bring certainty and a vision for the industry’s future. Labour must step up the pressure on government to develop a just transition strategy for the move to electrification. This must be a strategy, which develops our skills base. One which uses the government’s spending power to see new fleets of electric vehicles across public transport.

“This must be a strategy, which creates new jobs through investment in the industries infrastructure and if this rotting carcass of a government is too distracted to deliver such a strategy, then we say “get out of the way” and let’s have a Labour government which can.”


For more information please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 07967 665869 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.