“It’s not just ’cause of Brexit” tweeted a Swindon MP about Honda’s decision to close its UK car plant in 2022 with the loss of 3,500 jobs.
True – up to a point. The era of happy motoring is cruising toward the scrapyard. Global credit exhaustion ensures there’s neither the means for tomorrow’s debt-slaves to acquire cars nor sufficient funding to keep afloat the gargantuan infrastructures demanded by world scale automobilism.
Honda’s sayonara to Swindon is merely one of the first goodbyes of the auto industry’s long farewell to mass car ownership.
But it would be silly to say that the timing of Honda’s announcement wasn’t greatly influenced by Brexit. At the very least, the dizzying uncertainty around Brexit gives companies good cover for any bad moves they have to make for any reason.
Closing Swindon and absorbing production back into Japan is retrenchment whatever way you look at it. Corporates have a pathological aversion to admitting that life isn’t going their way.
It’s so much easier to say “A big Brexit made me do it” than admit that another very real reason for cutting back is that declining net energy has put a count-down clock on the future of your business model.
When you throw in the fact that Britain out of the EU will be a smaller, meaner, and technically much more awkward place from which to manufacture cars for European consumption, Honda’s decision to leave makes plenty of sense.
Big H’s departure plans leave Nissan trimming its wicks in Sunderland. Toyota can count its European blessings – its assembly plants in France, the Czech Republic and Portugal – while weighing the options for its Derby factory.
And while many UK media called Honda’s decision a ‘shock’, it really shouldn’t have been. The UK’s auto industry body, the SMMT, has long been warning about the harmful consequences of Brexit and the downright disastrous consequences of a hard Brexit. European sites such as Euractiv.com documented the probable damage to Japanese motor investment in the UK, where Japanese manufacturers represent more than 40% of British car output and, it’s claimed, 142,000 jobs.
Now that the EU-Japan trade deal lessens the advantage to Japanese companies from assembling cars in Europe to avoid import tariffs, it would have been all the harder to hold on to Japanese assembly plants in the UK – but even so, a bird in the hand as they say.
So what kind of hill of beans does this all add up to?
Instead of Britain putting herself at the forefront of buccaneering, free trading, economic superstardom, we’ve merely stuck out our neck and asked to be the first and biggest sacrifice in the saga of the Amazing Disappearing Automotive Industry.
Another local MP, James Gray, Conservative, North Wiltshire, is going to have a fun time explaining to thousands of households in his constituency why it is a good and noble thing for them to lose their livelihoods in part due to the Leave agenda he strongly advocates.
“I think it’s been a terrible organisation – an economically disastrous
organisation,” he said of the
Conservative Party the EU.