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Analysis

Jaguar Land Rover and retailers sound alarm over hard Brexit

by Hugo Dixon | 05.07.2018

When Boris Johnson said “f**k business”, did he want to f**k our biggest carmaker? Did he also want to f**k 65 million British consumers?

Jaguar Land Rover says it will find it unprofitable to stay in the UK if there’s a hard Brexit. Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium has warned that the cost of importing food and drink from the EU will go up 29% and over 12,500 small retail businesses will be at “high risk of going bust in the event of no deal”.

JLR employs 40,000 people and supports another 300,000 jobs through its network of suppliers. These are good, high quality jobs.

Ralf Speth, JLR’s boss, told the FT it would only move if this was necessary “to save the company… If I’m forced to go out because we don’t have the right deal, then we have to close plants here in the UK and it will be very, very sad.”

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Speth says he needs certainty before investing £80 billion in Britain over the next five years. “We’re in a cycle plan that means I have to make a decision. I can’t just wait, wait, wait, wait.”

That is a thinly veiled attack on our prime minister’s endless time-wasting, which is stifling investment. That is bad for workers and bad for the public finances – and therefore bad for the NHS too, which celebrates its 70th birthday today.

JLR is the latest major car manufacturer to sound the alarm about Brexit, after warnings in recent days from BMW as well as the car industry body.

Meanwhile, the BRC has written to May and the European Commission’s Michel Barnier about what’s at stake for consumers. It says 10,000 containers from the EU with 50,000 tonnes of food pass through our ports every day. Nearly a third of all the food we eat comes from the EU. A no deal scenario will probably see “food rotting at ports”.

Is this what people voted for two years ago? Is this the Brexit we were promised? We demand a People’s Vote on the final deal – with the option to stay in the EU if we don’t like it.