The announcement today from the Prime Minister regarding the ongoing EU-UK trade negotiations has further raised the political stakes as he issued a strong statement for businesses to prepare for no deal, while asking the EU to change their approach to talks and return with a Canada-style offer.
Businesses have been battling coronavirus at the same time as investing heavily in decarbonisation, all while preparing as best they can for a seismic change in trading conditions come year end. We welcome the news that talks are set to continue after the weekend and urge both sides to work with renewed vigour on an agreement that prioritises automotive – a sector that is the UK’s biggest exporter of goods and one of the UK and Europe’s most valuable economic assets.
This all comes at a critical time for automotive, with a second wave of coronavirus now sweeping Europe. Businesses simply cannot afford a second catastrophic hit from having to trade on WTO terms on top of the considerable damage already wrought by the pandemic.
As regional lockdowns begin to be introduced nationwide, the industry is heading into a winter of uncertainty and, while the sector is resilient, a 2021 recovery is far from guaranteed. The importance of an ambitious deal with the EU, therefore, cannot be overstated.
Government support, including the Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme, is welcome and will provide temporary relief, but we need more than just a short-term lifeline. We need, like elsewhere, to ensure jobs are supported for the duration of the pandemic and beyond so that we can remain competitive.
We want restart to be sustainable and help drive us towards net-zero in the years ahead. But we must have a competitive domestic automotive sector to help deliver a green recovery. This requires wide-ranging support across the market, production, skills, energy and infrastructure, combined with actions to make the UK an attractive place for international investment.
As the feared second wave unfolds, SMMT continues to offer support and guidance to the sector via our dedicated Covid-19 Support Hub. Please click here to see the latest updates, business support tools and webinars available, including SMMT’s Safe Harbour Scheme which has been developed specifically to prevent insolvencies and save jobs across the sector.
Finally, the deadline for the SMMT Charitable Trust Fund’s (SCTF) automotive apprenticeship Covid salary support scheme has been extended until 31 October. This support package has been designed to offer financial assistance to businesses who are considering apprenticeship redundancies after the conclusion of the government’s furlough scheme. For more information, and to apply, click here.