€110 billion. That will be the cost to the automotive sector if the UK and EU can’t agree on a free trade agreement by the end of the transition period, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
That gives negotiators on both sides just 15 weeks to agree on an ambitious deal, amid a backdrop of considerable discourse between both sides. At the time of writing, the Internal Market Bill, which gives the government the power to override elements of the EU withdrawal agreement (potentially breaking international law in the process), has passed its first vote in the commons by 340 to 263.
The EU and UK automotive sector supports 14.6 million jobs and produces 18.5 million vehicles each year. The introduction of a 10% WTO tariff is calculated to wipe out three million units from factory output in the UK and Europe over the next five years. This would see losses of more than €50 billion to UK manufacturers. In short, the impact of having no trade deal in place with the EU will be catastrophic to our sector.
But is anyone listening?
A survey conducted by YouGov earlier this week (Monday 14 September) found that 52% of British adults are paying little to no attention to ongoing Brexit negotiations. It would be 52%, right?
What’s more, in another YouGov survey conducted a week earlier (Monday 7 September) a quarter of people surveyed said they didn’t know whether it would be a good or bad outcome for the UK to end the EU transition period without a deal.
As we’ve seen, the impact of a no deal (for want of a better phrase) on just one sector will be devastating, and yet a quarter of the population don’t know if this is a bad thing, because half of us aren’t listening.
Part of the problem may well be Brexit fatigue – felt not only by the public but by the media. It’s telling that just a few hours after the aforementioned Internal Market Bill passed the Commons, it had already been bumped from the BBC News front page.
A day after SMMT has given its warning, the news has garnered relatively little online coverage. Print is fine, but it’s online where SMMT has a hope of reaching people who aren’t already engaged or are simply tired of Brexit, and reapplying pressure on the government.
With 15 weeks to go, hopefully, the stellar SMMT press office is planning on continuing to ramp up pressure on Brexit negotiators, and eventually, win through. We must hope they do, for all 14.6 million of our sakes.