"We have a dialogue with all the major political parties," SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes

"We have a dialogue with all the major political parties," SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes

UK government policy to remain a strong voice in a reformed European Union (EU) is not "a million miles" from that of the British Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), says the trade association.

Europe remains a hot political potato in Britain, which will see a general election in seven months time, complete with the meteoric rise of a new anti-EU membership party, UKIP, which is actively campaigning for a withdrawal from the 28-country strong club.

"We would always be apolitical [but] we have a dialogue with all the major political parties," SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, told just-auto at today's (4 November) Open Forum in the UK Midlands city of Birmingham, bringing together suppliers and OEMs.

"The [party] positions are not that hugely different. When [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron made his speech, he made it very clear it was in the UK's interest to remain in Europe with reform.

"I don't find that a million miles away from our position."

The current coalition of Conservative and Liberals has embraced the Automotive Council established under the tutelage of former Labour Secretary of State for Business, Peter Mandelson and there seems to be no appetite to change a winning formula.

But with UKIP securing its first Parliamentary seat recently in a local by-election, attention is increasingly turning to what would its automotive position be and indeed to the manufacturing sector in general.

"We have a general election next year and we have engagement with all the political parties, including engaging with UKIP, which is something of a challenge sometimes," said Hawes.

"We are in the process of establishing a dialogue. Their influence has risen a lot with the European elections. We have in the past sent them copies of our position papers."

The SMMT recently undertook a survey in which 92% of respondees indicated they would prefer to remain in Europe, but with the caveat of reform.

"Free movement of goods and people came up very strongly, as well as access to finance and trade opportunities," said Hawes. "Industry needs to have a very strong voice within that framework."

The Automotive Council has won plaudits for its work in identifying supplier opportunities for UK companies, with praise among others, coming from Scandinavian component producer association, FKG, in Gothenburg.

See also: UK: Britain better off inside a reformed EU - PM

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