A top Japanese diplomat said during an interview with the BBC that without some kind of agreement to cover the terms of Great Britain’s exit from the European Union Japanese businesses, including its carmakers, would begin scaling back investment in Britain.
Meanwhile, the French carmaker Peugeot also said that plans to build the next generation Astra vehicle at its Ellesmere Port car plant, which would keep the site open, will depend on the terms of Brexit.
“The decision on the allocation to the Ellesmere Port plant will be conditional on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union and the acceptance of the New Vehicle Agreement, which has been negotiated with the Unite trade union,” it said.
Peugeot acquired the Ellesmere plant, which last year accounted for roughly 5% of the 1.5 million vehicles built in Great Britain, when it bought Opel from General Motors.
Ford already has announced plans to close an engine plant it now operates in Great Britain as it restructures its European operations.
While Ford has operated in Britain for more than a century, Margaret Thatcher opened Great Britain to Japanese capital more than 30 years ago, inviting Japanese automakers to rebuild Britain’s floundering auto industry. More than 1,000 Japanese companies now operate in Britain.
Last year Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. made roughly half of the 1.5 million cars built in Great Britain and employed thousands of people both directly and through suppliers
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tokyo did not want a no-deal Brexit, that some companies were already moving out and that more investment could go. The Japanese foreign ministry works closely with Japanese business.
Champions of Brexit have insisted that the EU’s biggest economy Germany, which exports hundreds of thousands of cars to Britain ever year, would not impose restrictions in order to protect that trade.
Honda, though, announced earlier this year that it will close its British plant and Nissan has scrapped plans to build a new sports utility vehicle at its Sunderland factory in the north of England. Both companies officially blamed other factors on the decision to back out of Great Britain.
“If there’s a no-deal Brexit and if they have to go through actual custom inspections physically, those operations may not be able to continue,” Kono said.
“I have communicated with them that Japan wouldn’t want no-deal Brexit. So hopefully Brexit could be done through an ordinary and calm way.”