Updated with Honda announcement
Japanese carmaker Honda confirmed that it will shutter its Swindon factory in 2022, where 3,500 workers ply their trade, after media reports on Monday (18 February) cited uncertainty caused by Brexit as the main driving factor.
Honda confirmed on Tuesday (19 February) that it will indeed close its UK factory but Chief Executive Takahiro Hachigo said during a Tokyo press conference that the decision was not linked to Brexit.
The Japanese company is expected to keep its European headquarters, which has its seat in nearby Bracknell. It will also stop making its popular Civic model at its Turkey plant, although other production lines will not stop there.
Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson insisted before Hachigo’s confirmation that Honda’s decision was not down to Brexit. “They are clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021,” he said on Twitter.
UK media reported that production was moving back to Japan partly because of tariff-free access to the EU single market. A new trade deal also means that car safety standards will be fully aligned, cutting down on red tape.
At the time of publishing, the carmaker had said in a statement that “we are not able to make any comments regarding the speculation,” adding that they would communicate any news to their workers first. A press conference is scheduled in Tokyo for Tuesday morning.
The UK government also said it would not comment until a proper announcement has been made.
Employees at the Swindon plant, Honda’s only EU factory, were in no doubt that the decision was based on the UK’s decision to leave the Union.
One worker told Channel 4 News that “the government’s completely incompetent handling of the whole thing [Brexit negotiations] doesn’t help,” accusing Westminster of “idiocy of epic proportions”.
The Unite union’s representative at the Swindon plant also added that “this closure is undoubtedly because of Brexit”.
If Honda’s decision is made final, it will add to a growing list of foreign manufacturers that have decided to scale back production in the UK.
Earlier this month, Honda’s rival Nissan said it would no longer build its new SUV car at its Sunderland plant, citing Brexit and slump in diesel demand as the reasons.
Last week, regional airline Flybmi filed for bankruptcy amid increasing fuel costs and uncertainty caused by the UK’s divorce from Brussels. Airbus has also warned that production could be relocated in the event of no-deal.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]