SMMT urges Brexit progress

The president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Tony Walker has urged government not to undermine the UK automotive industry’s hard won competitiveness due to slow progress on Brexit.

Speaking at the Society’s 101st annual dinner in London, he said there is no substitute for free and frictionless trade, and called for quicker progress on agreeing a transition period following Brexit.

Addressing more than 1,100 industry leaders, government representatives and other stakeholders, the president said that while the Prime Minister has embraced the need for a period of transition to avoid a post-Brexit cliff edge, ‘we need to see concrete progress – and quickly.’ This transition, he added, ‘should be on the current terms and, crucially, not time-limited’ to give industry time to adjust and secure long-term investment decisions.

He continued, ‘We will never stop striving to be competitive. But we ask government to help provide the conditions in which we can compete. Like every other industry, we need certainty now.’

He continued, ‘As an industry we are strong, resilient, and innovative; not fearful of the future but keen to grasp the opportunities we are creating together. I am very proud that today our UK automotive industry competes globally on quality, productivity, flexibility and cost. We have delivered an export-led renaissance. But we are not complacent. Competitiveness comes hard-won. It can be easily lost. A hard Brexit would undermine all that we have collectively achieved. It is a real threat – a hurdle we cannot ignore.

‘We have huge challenges. Consumer confidence has fallen leading to a downturn in sales. Uncertainty about Brexit – and market confusion over diesel – are taking their toll.’

He continued, ‘After all the difficulties we have overcome, all the changes we have made and the innovations we have brought, we do not need trade barriers to be our next challenge. We are an industry with the character to overcome major obstacles. And we are working hard to maintain our competitiveness. But don’t test our character unnecessarily. In the last 40 years we have succeeded. We have torn down so many barriers. Please don’t allow new ones to be erected.’

The president was joined at the event by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark MP. He thanked him for the ‘strong and ongoing cooperation between our industry and government’ and for developing ‘a modern and effective industrial strategy’ and his ‘support for the work of the UK Automotive Council.’

The Council was established to enhance dialogue and strengthen cooperation between the UK government and the automotive sector. Tony Walker also highlighted other significant achievements in government industry collaboration including the ‘Advanced Propulsion Centre and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ and he added we ‘welcome and endorse such announcements as the Faraday challenge.’