BMW’s customs manager has warned the company “cannot” manufacture its products in the UK if Brexit means its supply chain is disrupted.
Stephan Freismuth spoke out after the company warned last week it needed clarity by the end of the summer on the Government’s preferred trade and customs positions.
It betrayed the depth of its exasperation at the state of the Brexit negotiations after Airbus, which employs 14,000 staff in Britain, released a risk assessment warning it would “reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country” if Britain left the single market and customs union without a transition agreement.
Mr Freismuth told the Financial Times: “We always said we can do our best and prepare everything, but if at the end of the day the supply chain will have a stop at the border, then we cannot produce our products in the UK.”
BMW employs almost 8,000 people in the UK and has four manufacturing facilities including the Mini plant outside Oxford and the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing and assembly factory at Goodwood.
Mr Freismuth explained that BMW wanted to keep its British plants open and was working on contingency plans, but that any disruption to imports of components would increase costs and damage its ‘just in time’ manufacturing model.
A BMW spokesman responded: “We have invested significantly in the UK and we are committed to our manufacturing facilities here.
“On the other hand, Brexit does represent a significant challenge. It is one we are determined to face.”
The public warnings from big business over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has sparked a backlash from ministers.
Responding to the comments by Airbus, International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said the aerospace giant should be “making the case” against a “no deal” Brexit in Europe – not just to the UK.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said “threats” from businesses were “completely inappropriate”.
In the Commons on Monday shadow business minister Chi Onwurah accused ministers of presiding over a “chaotic” Brexit that was “dividing the country, not bringing it together and risking our industrial base.”
The SNP’s business spokesman Drew Hendry described the remarks by Airbus as “sobering news for those drunk on the fantasises of Brexit”.