LONDON (Reuters) – Three quarters of businesses in Britain’s automotive sector think leaving the European Union next year without a transition deal would hurt them, an industry survey showed on Tuesday.
The concerns from Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) comes on the eve of reports due from government economists and the Bank of England on the likely economic impact of leaving the European Union.
“Crashing out of the EU would have immediate and devastating impacts, with border chaos disrupting the ‘just in time’ basis on which our business depends,” said Tony Walker, SMMT president and Toyota’s <7203.T> managing director for Europe.
Prime Minister Theresa May faces an uphill battle to persuade lawmakers to back her plans for Brexit in four months time, which involve a transitional deal which preserves the economic status quo for two to three years pending a trade deal that is likely to restrict British firms’ access to EU markets.
Some lawmakers in her Conservative Party instead favour leaving the EU with no transition and relying solely on more limited trade access under World Trade Organization rules – something opposed by car manufacturers.
Walker said WTO rules could lead to months of delays importing parts, and that jobs would go without tariff-free access to European Union markets.
Around four out of every five cars built in Britain are made for export, with the bulk going to the EU.
The SMMT, which opposed Brexit, said 74 percent of its members thought a no-deal Brexit would hurt their business versus 9 percent who saw benefits.
More than one in 10 firms had moved jobs abroad and a similar proportion had cut British staff as part of preparations for Brexit, the SMMT added.
(Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Addison)