3,000 Jaguar staff to go three days a week after Brexiteer MP accuses boss of 'making it up'

PUBLISHED: 12:07 17 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:43 17 September 2018

Hard Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin

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Jaguar Land Rover has announced that more than 3,000 staff will move to a three-day week at its Castle Bromwich plant in the West Midlands, just hours after a Tory Brexiteer accused its boss of "making it up" when warning that a Hard Brexit would wipe out profits and cost tens of thousands of jobs

The company said it had made the decision to reduce production as it struggleswith difficult conditions in the automotive industry, caused by Brexit and falling sales of diesel-powered cars.

Staff are expected to work reduced hours until at least Christmas.

Jaguar Land Rover aid in a statement: "As is standard business practice, Jaguar Land Rover regularly reviews its production schedules to ensure market demand is balanced globally.

"In light of the continuing headwinds impacting the car industry, we are making some temporary adjustments to our production schedules at Castle Bromwich.

"We are however continuing to over-proportionally invest in new products and technologies, and are committed to our UK plants in which we have invested more than £4bn since 2010 to future proof manufacturing technologies to deliver new models."

Birmingham Erdington MP Jack Dromey said in a tweet that the move was due to a combination of "Brexit chaos" and the "mishandling by ministers of the transition from diesel."

Mr Dromey tweeted: "#Brexit now threatens the jewel in the crown of #British manufacturing excellence."

The announcement came just hours after Bernard Jenkin, a hardline Brexiteer and member of Jacob Rees-Mogg's European Research Group took to the airwaves to rubbish a warning from the company's chief executive last week that a Hard Brexit could cause tens of thousands of jobs.

The boss of Britain’s biggest car manufacturer last week launched a blistering attack on Brexit plans, warning that “tens of thousands” of jobs in the car industry could be lost if the UK crashes out without a deal.

Ralf Speth, the company's chief executive, said he was concerned delays in the supply chain could halt production and repeated warnings that a Hard Brexit could cost £1.2bn.

But former shadow minister Sir Bernard Jenkin today accused Prof Speth of scaremongering, telling BBC Radio 4's Today: "I'm afraid I think he's making it up.

"We've had figures made up all the time by the scaremongers in this debate and I'm afraid nobody believes them."

The bizarre outburst was described by Labour MP Gareth Thomas as "another unnecessary blow to the country’s struggling car industry by Brexiteers who just don’t seem to care".

The warning by Prof Speth, who has worked in the car industry for more than 30 years, followed similar warnings from other industry bosses, including Airbus and BMW, about the potentially damaging consequences of Britain's decision to leave the EU.

Dr Speth had said that, as his firm produced 3,000 cars daily and relied heavily on "just in time" supply chains where parts are delivered shortly before they are used, he would be "very, very concerned" if there were blockages in the supply of parts.

He also repeated his warning, made in early July, that a Hard Brexit would cost Jaguar Land Rover, the biggest private sector employer in the West Midlands, £1.2bn.

The firm is already moving production of its Discovery model from the UK to Slovakia early next year, which is likely to affect hundreds of jobs.

Jenkin's comments were described as "embarrassing" by pro-Remain Tory MP Anna Soubry.

She said on Twitter: "The Conservative Party is the party of business. I'm backing Raif [sic[ Speth & all the other business leaders & trade unions who are being honest about the disaster of a #NoDeal hard #Brexit & are increasingly backing @peoplesvote_uk."

Thomas, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: "Another day, another unnecessary blow to the country’s struggling car industry by Brexiteers who just don’t seem to care. Big players in the industry have been warning of this for a very long time.

"Crashing out with no-deal could mean the future of UK car exports to the EU could hang in the balance, damaging an industry filled with thousands of high skilled jobs.

"When you have huge employers like Jaguar Land Rover warning of an existential threat to their ability to carry on trading, it’s time to stop and think about whether Brexit is really worth it."

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: "One of Britain's most iconic brands is bringing in the three-day week - the sign of economic doom and malaise from the 1970s. This should ring alarm bells in everyone as we see the engine of our economy starting to stutter.

"If you listen closely you can hear the last vestiges of Conservative economic competence fluttering away in a Brexit headwind.

"Only a few hours ago, Bernard Jenkin said this was all made up and Jaguar were scaremongering; I would hazard a guess he won't go and say that face to face to the staff from Castle Bromwich.

"We are facing a Brexit business disaster and we need act before it's too late. The people deserve a say on the final deal."

Technical papers released by the government last week warned that cars made in the UK may no longer be valid for sale in the European Union without a Brexit deal.

Type approval, which demonstrates that vehicles comply with safety and environmental standards, would not be valid for sales in the EU if issued in the UK, it said.

UK manufacturers would need to obtain type approval in an EU country to continue selling their products there.

The government said it planned to issue provisional UK type approval to firms which already hold EU versions.

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