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SMMT calls for faster agreement on Brexit transition phase

Date: 29 November 2017

The President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Tony Walker, has urged government not to undermine the UK automotive industry due to slow progress on Brexit.

Addressing more than 1,100 industry leaders, government representatives and other stakeholders at the Society's 101st Annual Dinner in London last night, the President said that while the Prime Minister had embraced the need for a period of transition to avoid a post-Brexit cliff edge, government must do more to provide the conditions in which the industry can compete in and provide certainty now.

"As an industry we are strong, resilient, and innovative. Not fearful of the future but keen to grasp the opportunities we are creating together," Walker said. "I am very proud that today our UK automotive industry competes globally on quality, productivity, flexibility and cost. We have delivered an export-led renaissance. But we are not complacent. Competitiveness comes hard-won. It can be easily lost. A hard Brexit would undermine all that we have collectively achieved. It is a real threat - a hurdle we cannot ignore." 

He stated that the lack of progress over Brexit was already having an impact on the automotive sector and consumer confidence had fallen leading to a downturn in sales and market confusion over diesel.

Walker added, "After all the difficulties we have overcome, all the changes we have made and the innovations we have brought, we do not need trade barriers to be our next challenge. We are an industry with the character to overcome major obstacles. And we are working hard to maintain our competitiveness. But don't test our character unnecessarily." He added, "In the last forty years we have succeeded. We have torn down so many barriers. Please don't allow new ones to be erected.

The President's speech also addressed the issue of air quality and the automotive sector's ongoing efforts to invest in new technology and improve air quality. He said, "We have invested billions of pounds in clean, low emission technologies. Leading change by electrifying the market through the introduction of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell cars. The internal combustion engine is not dead - it is the path to a cleaner and greener future. Banning diesel and petrol cars might be a sound bite that works but it's not a policy that works. If you ban them you disrupt the new car market and you hamper investment in the electric, emission-free vehicles of tomorrow. You set the future back."