The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has renewed its call for the automotive industry to be at the heart of negotiations, as the UK government triggered Article 50, formally starting the Brexit process to withdraw Britain from the European Union.

"As a highly-integrated sector that has maximised the benefits of the European single market, this is perhaps the most significant threat to the competitiveness of the UK automotive sector in a generation," the lobby group claims. 

"The biggest market – by far – is Europe. Total automotive trade with the EU is worth more than GBP42bn – nearly seven times the value of our next biggest trade partner, the US. The sector is deeply integrated within the European automotive industry. Nearly 70% of the cars we buy come from European factories, more than half our new car exports are destined for European markets and the tens of thousands of parts that make up a car cross European borders multiple times. We need both sides to reach a deal which protects this frictionless, 'just in time' movement but one which also avoids tariffs, harmonises regulation and ensures the European and UK automotive industries remain the engine for growth, innovation and jobs.

"We want the UK to exploit new markets, but this should not be at the cost of our biggest trading partner. Substituting one market for another is not straightforward given differing consumer tastes, regulation and market access."

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: "Triggering Article 50 has started a race against time to secure a deal that safeguards the future of the UK automotive industry. Government has committed to creating and supporting the right conditions for our industry to be successful. That means certainty in our relationship with our biggest market, tariff-free and open borders so products, parts and investment can flow freely, and continued influence over the regulation that governs the vehicles we build and drive. We will continue to work with government and our European counterparts but no deal is not an option. Now is the time for government to deliver."

The SMMT claims current uncertainty has resulted in reduced investment, down from GBP2.5bn in 2015 to GBP1.66bn.

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By GlobalData