Swindon MP confirms Honda plant closure but blames 'global trends'

PUBLISHED: 14:36 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:59 18 February 2019

Honda's factory in Swindon. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA.

Honda's factory in Swindon. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

A Brexiteer MP has confirmed Honda is planning to close its plant in Swindon by 2022 - but denied Brexit was behind the decision.

Justin Tomlinson, the MP for North Swindon. Photograph: House of Commons.Justin Tomlinson, the MP for North Swindon. Photograph: House of Commons.

Local Tory MP Justin Tomlinson confirmed the news that up to 4,000 jobs will go, but insisted it was because of “global trends”.

Tomlinson said he and fellow Tory MP Robert Buckland had spoken to the Business Secretary and the car firm about the decision.

He tweeted: “They are clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021.

“Working with Honda, Gov (led by the business secretary), staff and Unions there will be a taskforce set up to provide support for all staff (as we did when jobs were lost previously at Honda).

“Honda will be consulting with all staff and there is not expected to be any job losses, or changes in production until 2021.”

The Japanese company declined to comment on the announcement which comes less than six months after bosses at the car giant pledged its commitment to the UK.

Workers at the Honda plant in Swindon said they had not been informed about plans to close it.

When asked his reaction to the news, one man leaving the site said: “Devastated. That’s all I can say.”

Des Quinn, for the Unite union, said a closure would represent “a shattering body blow at the heart of UK manufacturing”.

He added: “We are seeking urgent clarification from Honda on the implications of these serious reports.

“We will be doing everything we can in the coming days and weeks to support our members at this grave time for them, their families and the UK economy.

“This will also affect thousands of jobs in the extensive supply chain across the country.”

Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, described the how the closure would be “devastating for Swindon, for jobs, for the supply-chain, and for the UK’s car industry”.

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She added: “The threat of Brexit is already having a damaging impact on investment decisions in the UK. The PM now needs to rule out no deal immediately and keep us in the single market and customs union rather than risk further fatal damage to our car industry.

“Japan and the EU have a free-trade agreement, guaranteeing tariff-free access. It would be an act of folly to toss that away, along with friction-free access to the EU market, in the forlorn hope that we could negotiate a better deal.”

Last month Honda announced plans for a six-day shutdown to prepare for any Brexit-related disruption.

A company statement at the time said: “Honda has been assessing how best to prepare for any disruption caused by logistics and border issues following the UK leaving the EU on March 29.

“To ensure Honda is well placed to adjust to all possible outcomes, we are planning six non-production days in April.

“This is to facilitate production recovery activity following any delays at borders on parts.

“These contingency provisions have been put in place to best mitigate the risk of disruption to production operations at the Swindon factory.”

Darren Jones MP, a leading supporter of People’s Vote and who represents a constituency where Honda cars are loaded onto ships for export, said: “After recent decisions by Nissan and Ford to move manufacturing abroad, the reported closure of the Honda factory in Swindon would be a devastating blow for jobs in the South West and for highly skilled automotive manufacturing in this country.

“Even before Brexit has happened, it’s already hitting jobs, opportunities and investment. Manufacturers have in recent weeks lined up to warn that uncertainty caused by Brexit has made conditions for investment in the UK more difficult, and this latest decision is another warning that Brexit could put British jobs on the line.

“It is now incumbent on political leaders to sit up and take note of the true cost of Brexit. Nobody voted to be poorer, nobody voted for our manufacturing sector to be decimated and nobody voted for skilled jobs to go abroad.

“With jobs and livelihoods at risk, the public must be given the final say on Brexit. That’s why huge numbers will be marching through London on March 23rd, demanding any Brexit deal is put to the people.”

Swindon voted by 54.7% to Leave during the EU referendum in June 2016.

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