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March 11, 2018 Sunday 8:49 PM GMT
BUSINESS; Version:1
768 words
Ford's Welsh engine plant faces 'perfect storm' of Brexit and Trump's protectionism;
Thousands of jobs are at risk, union fears
By Abby Bolter

A "perfect storm" of post-Brexituncertainty andPresident Trump'sprotectionist stance could hit thousands of jobs in Wales, a union has warned.

The GMB has called on theUK Governmentto be clear on what trading conditions will be once the UK leaves the European Union after concerns were raised about future investment.

The union has major fears for Ford's Bridgend engine plant after the US motor giant's Europe's chief Steven Armstrong said the company needed clarity before it made decisions on future investment.

Experts fear the imposition of tariffs and customs checks between the UK - Europe's third largest car producer - and Europe could threaten the viability of car plants.

Ford Europe boss Steven Armstrong told Reuters that the sooner they have clarity, the sooner it will be to make decisions, whether they be positive or negative.

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The car maker has estimated that a hard Brexit, which would see the imposition of World Trade Organisation tariffs of 10% on imports and exports and lower levels on components would cost it hundreds of millions.

A Business Department spokesman said Prime MinisterTheresa Maymade clear in her Mansion House speech that the UK wanted to champion free trade and form bold economic partnerships with EU neighbours.

She added: "Alongside this, through our modern Industrial Strategy and the landmark Automotive Sector Deal, we are laying the groundwork to put this sector at the forefront of new automotive technologies and future investment decisions."

TheBridgendengine plant employs around 1,800 people and produces the Sigma engine for the Ford Focus, Cougar and Mondeo models and also petrol engines for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR)

But last autumn Tata Motors-owned JLR said it wouldend its arrangement with Fordin September 2020, three months earlier than expected.

Union bosses fear that 1,000 jobs could be lost if new contracts are not found.

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Earlier in 2017 the GMB union also leaked plans by Ford tocut the workforceby more than 1,000 to around 600 by 2021. It followed a cut in investment in the new Dragon engine, which is due to start production next year.

Ford is Britain's largest automotive engine maker, building half of the UK's total output of 2.7m units between Bridgend and its plant in Dagenham.

The GMB said the UK could not rely on trade deals with the United States post-Brexit either as President Donald Trump has chosen a protectionist stance, already imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imposts in order to protect American jobs.

Jeff Beck, GMB Organiser, said: "This perfect storm will impact upon, not only thousands of jobs in the car industry itself, but on the many thousands of people employed in the supply chain.

"What's paramount now is that the Government moves quickly to set out a position that can reassure Ford and other companies that it is in their best interests to continue to invest in Bridgend."

Mike Payne, GMB Political Officer for Wales, said: "The Government needs to move quickly to reassure workers in Bridgend but also across the UK.

"The recent protectionist stance taken by President Trump, combined with Theresa May's announcement that we will be leaving the Customs Union after Brexit is a complete disaster for the UK's car industry.

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"If the Government thinks that the panacea to all of our Brexit worries is to rely on the US, they need to think again. President Trump has shown no signs of caring about UK jobs and he's made it clear that he won't sign trade deals that don't overwhelmingly benefit the USA at the detriment of others.

"Maybe it's a wake-up call for Theresa May, she needs to stop wasting her time trying to appease the unappeasable on her back benches, get us out of this hard Brexit nightmare and commit to a customs union that will protect jobs and the British economy."

A Business Department spokesperson said: "We are continuing to work with the Automotive Investment Organisation and theWelsh governmentto engage with Ford on future plans for its Bridgend plant.

"As the Prime Minister made clear in her Mansion House speech, the government's vision for post-Brexit Britain is a UK that champions free trade, forging bold economic partnerships with our EU neighbours. Alongside this, through our modern Industrial Strategy and the landmark Automotive Sector Deal, we are laying the groundwork to put this sector at the forefront of new automotive technologies and future investment decisions."
March 11, 2018
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