October 15, 2019 / 8:18 AM / a month ago

UK autos firms cut jobs, fear for investment as Brexit nears: SMMT

FILE PHOTO: Workers are seen on the production line at Nissan's car plant in Sunderland Britain, October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - One in three British automotive firms is cutting jobs as Brexit nears, up from one in eight just under a year ago, according to a survey conducted by a group representing the industry which risks being a big loser from Brexit.

Eighty percent of firms feared leaving the European Union would hurt their future prospects and nearly two-thirds said they would be unable to invest in their British operations, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) survey showed.

“Make no mistake, every day ‘no deal’ remains a possibility is another day of lost investment, another day that makes it harder to recover investor confidence in the UK,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.

“As yet, the damage is not irreversible. But we need a deal. A deal that, in the short term, enables a ‘business-as-usual’ transition for as long as it takes to negotiate and implement the future trading relationship.”

In the longer term, the industry needed frictionless trade with the EU, he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without an agreement on Oct. 31 if necessary, although lawmakers have passed legislation that they say will force him to seek a delay from Brussels.

The autos sector, Britain’s biggest exporter of goods, is concerned that World Trade Organisation tariffs of 10% on vehicles alongside new customs checks and border delays could halt production if there is a disorderly Brexit.

Last week, Nissan (7201.T), which runs Britain’s biggest car factory, said such tariffs would make its business unsustainable in Europe.

The SMMT said its survey was based on responses from 158 member companies polled in September.

Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce

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