Turmoil and uncertainty as the UK votes to go it alone
The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much nor live so long.
I write this opinion on the morning following the UK’s monumental decision to leave the European Union and the closing lines from King Lear seem strangely apposite. Once more the UK stands alone, perhaps for the first time since 1939. What the future holds is unclear, not least for the nation’s automotive industry which is a vital part of the UK economy accounting for more than £69.5 billion turnover and £15.5 billion value added. With some 160,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and in excess of 799,000 across the wider industry, it accounts for 11.8% of total UK exports of goods and invests £2.4 billion each year in automotive R&D. Now, it is an industry which is potentially under threat.
I recently lunched with an important figure in the UK automotive industry whose name I cannot divulge since our conversation was off the record. Suffice to say that he is someone with his finger on the pulse of the industry in this country. He told me that he knew of several automotive companies which were on the brink of announcing significant investment into the UK but which had decided to delay until the result of the referendum was known. Will that investment now be forthcoming? Importantly, will the new UK Prime Minister, whoever he may be, be able to negotiate tariff-free access to European and other markets? Toyota has already warned that a Brexit could lead to increased duties of as much as 10% on the cars it builds in Britain.
And it is a Britain which could, potentially, be much smaller than it currently is. 62% of Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU. Surely the Scottish Nationalist Party will seize on this to call for a second referendum on Scottish independence; a referendum which, next time, they may well win.
Will the UK be the only country to leave the EU? Will the British economy plunge into recession? There are more questions than answers, and this is a state of uncertainty which will undoubtedly continue, at least until the consequences of the UK voters’ decision have been clearly established.
Sam Ogle - Editor
Simon Duval Smith
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