Billionaire Brexiteer considering plans to move car production to France
- Credit: Archant
The billionaire Brexiteer boss of Ineos Automotive is considering scrapping plans to build a car plant in Wales after plans to acquire a factory in France.
The firm, a part of pro-Brexit billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos group, is said to be in talks with Mercedes-Benz over acquiring the German company's Hambach factory in Moselle, France, instead of building new facilities in Bridgend and Portugal.
Production of a new 4x4 vehicle named Grenadier was due to begin in Bridgend next year.
Around 200 jobs were due to be created initially, but that was expected to increase to 500 once the vehicle reached full production.
Ratcliffe in February 2019 moved to Monaco to avoid UK taxes on his fortune.
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The Bridgend factory was due to be built next to the huge Ford engine plant which is closing this autumn with the loss of 1,700 jobs.
Ineos Automotive chief executive Dirk Heilmann said: 'Overcapacity has long been a major issue for the automotive sector.
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'Of course we considered this route previously, but, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, some new options such as this one with the plant in Hambach have opened up that were simply not available to us previously.
'We are therefore having another look and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment.
'Covid has had an impact on our build schedules with ground-clearing works and construction held up by the social distancing measures that have been required.
'Safety is, of course, paramount, but we also have an obligation to do what is right for the business and so need to assess these new opportunities in order to maintain or improve on our timelines.'
Former first minister Carwyn Jones, who represents Bridgend, suggested Brexit-supporting businesses had an 'extra responsibility' to invest in the UK.
'Do you agree with me that those who are passionate Brexiteers should be angry at what has happened here because this undermines their passionately held belief that the UK will be better outside the EU?,' Jones asked in the Senedd.
Ken Skates, the Welsh Government's minister for economy, replied: 'I agree entirely with Carwyn Jones and say that this decision is somewhat perplexing given the business in question is a supporter of Brexit and there is no doubt whatsoever that Brexit is doing immense damage to the automotive industry and the economy in general.
'This disappointing news should be reflecting the poor performance of the UK Government in terms of negotiations with our European colleagues to date and should send a very real warning for the state of the automotive sector as we reach the transition period.'
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