David Davies (l) and Michel Barnier are leading talks to break UK-EU Brexit deadlock, but AIO remains optimistic on British potential

David Davies (l) and Michel Barnier are leading talks to break UK-EU Brexit deadlock, but AIO remains optimistic on British potential

Britain's Automotive Investment CEO has delivered an upbeat assessment of supplier and OEM activity in the UK following London's decision to secede from the European Union (EU) in 2019, but business is still waiting for final clarity on any settlement deal.

Talks between the UK and the EU have hitherto proceeded at what appeared to be a glacial pace, with intense wrangling centering on what is commonly referred to as the 'divorce bill,' but it appears some momentum is gathering speed as the clock ticks.

In particular, this relates to to what may or not be Britain's future obligations on issues such as pensions and infrastructure projects from Brussels' point of view, while the UK is anxious to secure progress on a post-Brexit Free Trade Agreement, a key area of concern for business.

There is some anecdotal evidence large investment plans are being put on hold as the horse-trading between both sides has previously stalled meaningful progress, but it appears a looming EU summit next month may concentrate minds on finding a solution.

Despite the uncertainty, the UK continues to attract inward investment, with the automotive sector featuring among industries to have given a vote of confidence to the domestic situation, although they would undoubtedly relish more clarity.

"Aston Martin, they chose Wales, Magna, Gestamp, the investments are continuing," Automotive Investment, UK government, Department for International Trade CEO, Lawrence Davies, told delegates at the recent CEE European Automotive Forum organised by Adam Smith Conferences in Prague.

"Bluntly, they are not slowing down. I will let the politicians get on with the negotiations and our job is to make sure UK automotive stays strong."

The UK recorded a seventh consecutive monthly drop in October according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), but the Automotive Investment chief remains upbeat, pointing to Britain's underlying strength, despite Brexit jitters.

"We are on track to build 2m cars by 2020, which is the fastest growth in Europe," added Davies. "Engines are [also] significant to the UK – 2.5m [of them] – the largest player is Ford. We [also] have the Advanced Propulsion Centre in Coventry.

"We do 50:50 funding on R&D – that is very significant if people are thinking of investing in the UK. The largest EU manufacturer of electric vehicles is the UK, [while] 16% of all sales of all 28 continues in Europe [EU] are from the UK.

"Nissan and Volvo have made London their choice for European autonomous testing [and] we have a very strong supply base. Britain is open for business."

Davies spent 35 years in the car sector, starting at General Motors in purchasing and the supply chain, before joining Opel in Germany.

He became director of GM UK producing and supply chain in 2006 before joining the AIO in 2013.

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