Brexit: UK car production ‘could halt early next year’ if EU trade talks fail, union warns

Car production in the UK could be shut down early next year if EU trade talks fail, the Unite union has warned.

Steve Bush, Unite’s national officer for the automotive sector, told Sky News “now is the time to worry”, regardless of whether a deal is agreed or not.

He said: “Within days [of 1 January] we may potentially see an issue where production is shut and ceases because there’s a backup at Dover.”

“Even if there is a deal, you’ve got to look at the technical elements,” he added, referring specifically to tariff rules that govern what proportion of a product must be made in the UK.

In Sunderland, which is home to Britain’s biggest car plant, it is not hard to find people for whom the finer points of any trade deal are of little concern.

The Nissan factory employs 5,750 people in the city and bosses have previously warned a no-deal Brexit will make its UK business “unstainable”.

Four years ago, Sunderland famously celebrated its resounding vote to leave the EU, a reaction, in part, to four decades of national and international economic policies that worked against many people in the region.

“I think we’ll do okay,” one man told Sky News, as he battled a pushchair in the rain-swept city centre.

“I think it’s a concern, but I think you just have to get on with it.”

Another, who said he voted to leave the EU, was as unconcerned about Nissan’s future in the area as he was about the lengthening talks in Brussels.

“I think we’ll survive either way. I don’t think we should have European countries telling us what to do,” he said.

It comes as negotiations in Brussels dragged past the deadline with no agreement in place.

Leaders agreed to extend the deadline and continue talks into next week, with negotiators told to “go the extra mile”.

However, on Sunday afternoon Boris Johnson said “we’re still very far apart on some key issues” and that no-deal is still the “most likely” outcome.

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