Ford to close Bridgend plant next year after issuing Brexit warning

The Ford engine plant near Bridgend, south Wales. Photograph: Jacob King/PA Wire.

The Ford engine plant near Bridgend, south Wales. Photograph: Jacob King/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Ford has come under attack from unions after announcing plans to close its engine plant in Bridgend next year, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The 40-year-old plant in South Wales will close in September 2020, affecting jobs in companies supplying goods and services to the plant, and delivers another huge blow to the UK motor industry following news that Honda is to shut its factory in Swindon, while other firms are cutting back.

Ford previously warned it would reconsider its UK investment if MPs cannot agree a Brexit that guarantees a smooth departure from the EU.

A no-deal Brexit would lead to the company having "to consider seriously the long-term future of our investments in the country," the manufacturer's Europe chairman Steven Armstrong warned in April.

Unions said the news was devastating for the plant and the UK economy, pledging to resist the closure "with all their might".

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Labour MP Geraint Davies - whose father worked at the Welsh office and had convinced the car firm to move to Bridgend - blamed Brexit for the decision.

He said that workers in the area, which voted for Brexit, "did not vote to lose their jobs" and argued they "deserve a final say on the final deal and to stay in the EU and not lose their jobs".

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But trade minister Graham Stuart said the automotive industry is in "massive global flux" and trying to link every decision to Brexit is "to lead people astray".

He said it was a "false argument for a second referendum", and that the people of South Wales wanted to Leave and not hear "weaselly words from the party opposite".

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Ford's decision to shut its Bridgend engine plant in 2020 is a grotesque act of economic betrayal.

"These workers and this community have stayed faithful to Ford, as have UK customers - this is still Ford's largest European market - through thick and thin, but have been treated disgracefully in return by this company.

"Ford broke promise after promise to the UK. First, it was that it would build 500,000 engines at Bridgend. That fell to a quarter of a million, then fell again and again to now just 80,000.

"The company has deliberately run down its UK operations so that now not a single Ford vehicle - car or van - is made in the UK.

"Ford has treated its UK workers abysmally, and they could do so because the fact remains that it is cheaper, easier and quicker to sack our workers than those in our competitor countries.

"But Ford can forget about it if it thinks we will make it easy for Ford to walk away from this workforce. We will resist this closure with all our might."

The news comes as Honda prepares to shut its Swindon plant in 2021, while fellow Japanese car-maker Nissan reversed a decision to build its new X-Trail vehicle at its Sunderland plant.

Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India's Tata Motors, is also cutting jobs.

Ford also has another engine plant in Dagenham, Essex, and a plant making transmissions in Halewood, Liverpool.

Ford announced last month that it was cutting 7,000 white collar jobs worldwide, with up to 550 expected in the UK.

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