In the run-up to last week’s referendum AROnline kept pretty quiet about the various pros and cons of an anticipated Brexit. Why? I guess because I thought that it would never happen. It was going to be close, that’s for sure, and the Remain campaign was absolutely useless on both sides of the political fence, but I thought that, when it came to it, us Brits are a considered lot, and we don’t like revolutions. We simply don’t do that sort of thing. How wrong I was…
Ian Nicholls has already spelt out the car manufacturers’ view of the post-Brexit political landscape, but it’s worth noting that, in addition, Jaguar Land Rover has already sought to calm fears that leaving the EU will cause irrevocable damage to the UK manufacturing sector. Personally speaking, I think this was a very wise move – many people were panicked by the result of the referendum but, as it stands now – just three days after the result was called, remember – the world hasn’t ended. Our factories are still making cars, and our workers are still being paid – and this will continue.
What the industry – and the population as a whole – needs to do now, is avoid a knee-jerk reaction and start changing business strategies in haste. As has been said many times elsewhere, back in the 1990s, we were scared into believing that businesses would pull out if we didn’t join the Euro, but here we are today making more cars than we have ever done before. The good news here is that we make desirable cars which the whole world wants to buy – not just Europe. In fact, JLR sells 80 per cent of its British-made exports outside of the EU.
AROnline’s core raison d’être is to report the history of British car manufacturing in forensic detail. That’s because to understand the present, one needs to study, and fully know, the past. Where BMC failed in the past was in getting its cars sold heavily into markets that weren’t saddled with import barriers. It was good at flogging to the Commonwealth, but less so with mainland Europe. Had it been able to sell Minis and 1100s for competitive prices, things could have been so very different now.
What therefore needs to happen even before the UK Government triggers Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and starts the process of leaving the EU, is to negotiate a trade deal. It needs to ensure that what hampered BMC won’t do the same to Jaguar Land Rover today – and that means securing car manufacturers’ continued membership of the EU’s Single Market, without tariff barriers or any other protectionist nonsense.
We import a lot of cars into the UK, and many of those have components in them that were originally built here. All those ‘lovely’ four-cylinder BMW 3 Series that come into the UK are powered by engines made in Hams Hall. Those German-made Ford Focus TDCis we love to buy are also pulled along by British-made engines. It truly is a global business. That won’t stop any time soon and we need to ensure that the EU understands that.
So, as a nation, we voted for Brexit – love it or hate it, we should all now make the best of it. It’s not called Great Britain for nothing. If we hold our nerve now, we can and will work with the EU in the future – just so long, that is, as we’re led by the right people and we all believe we can be truly great again.
We are a great nation – our cars are great – and I know that we can truly use the lessons that we’ve learned from our past to build a successful future for our country and its Automotive Industry.