LONDON Jan 15 Ford, the top-selling car
manufacturer in Britain, said on Wednesday it would be forced to
reconsider its UK operations if the country voted in favour of
leaving the European Union, the latest major foreign investor to
sound the same warning.
Steve Odell, chief executive of Ford's operations in Europe,
said the second-largest U.S. carmaker would have to re-evaluate
its operations if Britain pulled out of the 28-member trading
bloc in a proposed referendum.
"Clearly we wouldn't be alone in doing that. Would it mean
tariffs? Would it mean duties? We'd take a look at what it
meant," Odell told the Telegraph newspaper.
"I would strongly advise against leaving the EU for business
purposes, and for employment purposes in the UK."
Ford's warning follows a similar message last year from
Japanese car giant Nissan which also has substantial operations
in the UK employing thousands of people.
Ford closed its British van factory in Southampton, southern
England, in July and shuttered an associated stamping facility
in Dagenham, east London, ending vehicle manufacturing in
But the firm still employs nearly 15,000 people in Britain,
who mainly build and develop engines, and supports a further
100,000 jobs through its network of suppliers and dealers, the
company said on its website.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised voters he would
renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership before holding
an in-out referendum by 2017 if his ruling Conservatives were
returned to power after elections due in May 2015.
The centre-right party is trailing in the polls and faces a
rising threat from the small UK Independence Party (UKIP), which
wants to leave the 28-member bloc.
Odell said he strongly discouraged Britain from leaving the
EU but accepted if the public were asked today, most would
support an exit as there was such a strong focus on the red tape
that came with EU membership rather than the benefits.
"If they voted today, the common vote - unfortunately -
would be to leave Europe," said British-born Odell.
Ford's comments come after UK car sales in 2013 recorded
their best year since 2007, with car registrations rising 10.8
percent on 2012 to 2.26 million vehicles, while sales in the
rest of the Europe have fallen in recent years.