BRITAIN will leave the single market when it quits the European Union, Theresa May said today – leading to fears that investment in UK car manufacturing could be threatened.
The Prime Minister said that her plans for Brexit could not allow continued membership of the single market, which would require free movement of people and accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Instead, she said that she would seek ‘the greatest possible access to the single market on a reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive trade agreement’.
Mrs May said that she wanted to remain part of a customs agreement with the remaining 27 EU states, but said she had an ‘open mind’ over whether this would be through associate membership of the EU customs union or via some other arrangement.
Her announcement came in a high-profile speech in London setting out her objectives for post-Brexit Britain.
But Len McCluskey, general secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, said the Prime Minister’s stance put future investment in industries such as car manufacturing in the UK in jeopardy.
He said: ‘Trade unions and others have clearly outlined how real concerns over the freedom of movement can be addressed by sensible labour market safeguards without abandoning the single market when we leave the EU.
‘Out of the single market, possibly out of the customs union, then investment in core sectors like car manufacturing, chemicals, aerospace, even food manufacturing, will be threatened as companies face hefty on-costs and serious disruption to their supply chains.’
Last year, SMMT boss Mike Hawes warned that the UK’s car manufacturing industry risked ‘death by a thousand cuts’ if firms invested elsewhere following the Brexit decision.
And in the wake of today’s speech he added: ‘The recognition by the Prime Minister of the importance of single market arrangements for the automotive sector is critical.
‘We need government to deliver a deal which includes participation in the customs union to help safeguard EU trade, trade that is tariff-free and avoids the non-tariff and regulatory barriers that would jeopardise investment, growth and consumer choice.
‘Achieving this will not be easy and we must, at all costs, avoid a cliff-edge and reversion to WTO tariffs, which would threaten the viability of the industry.’
On SuperUnleaded.com: Who Won What At The 2017 Dakar Rally?