Manufacturer to close two sites in UK amid Brexit uncertainty

Schaeffler's factory in Llanelli Pic: Google

A manufacturing firm is to close two sites in the UK with "uncertainty" surrounding Brexit given as a factor behind the decision.

Automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler said the sites in Plymouth and Llanelli, South Wales, will close within two years.

It is understood that up to 500 jobs could be affected.

The German-owned company said production will be relocated to the United States, China, South Korea and Germany.

The company, which employs just over 1,000 workers in the UK, said its biggest site in Sheffield will be retained in its current form.

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Work at two logistics centre in Hereford and Sutton Coldfield will be combined at Hereford.

Juergen Ziegler, Schaeffler's regional chief executive, Europe, said: "A global business needs to regularly review market conditions and strive to optimise its footprint across different regions.

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"The proposed measures we have taken for the UK reflect this business reality. However, we remain committed to keeping certain activities in the UK, a country that will continue to be important to us.

"Brexit is clearly not the single decisive factor behind our decision-making for the UK market, but the need to plan for various complex scenarios has brought forward the timing."

Greig Littlefair, managing director of Schaeffler UK, said: "We are committed to having transparent and fair discussions with the employees affected by these proposals. We will also ensure our customers continue to be served and that these proposed changes create minimal disruption for them."

The Plymouth site mainly produces spindle bearings and machine parts for the firm's industrial division, while parts for car companies are manufactured at Llanelli.

Plaid Cymru's Welsh Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, Helen Mary Jones, said the closure of the Llanelli plant would lead to the loss of 220 jobs.

She said: "This will be the economic reality of Brexit. We need certainty on the negotiations before March.

"Without clarity we will be facing a blind Brexit, with the business-critical detail decided from a position of weakness outside Europe."

Labour MP Jo Stevens, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: "This is terrible news for all the workers in Llanelli and Plymouth as more people are losing their jobs, in part due to Brexit.

"Brexit is making Britain a less attractive place to operate and invest. The government's continued incompetent negotiations means it is playing roulette with our economy."

Unite's assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: "This is yet another body blow for the UK's automotive supply chain and the wider car industry.

It should leave no-one in any doubt as to what is in store if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal that secures tariff-free frictionless trade.

"The uncertainty surrounding the Tories' shambolic handling of Brexit and their piecemeal industrial strategy is having real consequences. Behind the closures and the uncertainty currently gripping the car industry and component manufacturing are people with bills to pay and families to feed."

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