The SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes has said that the UK automotive sector is in a good place to withstand the challenges ahead following the referendum decision for the UK to leave the EU.

He told the SMMT International Summit in London that the UK auto industry is delivering record turnover, productivity and creating employment. However, he also acknowledged that there are big challenges ahead, especially in the UK government’s negotiations to keep the UK’s tariff-free access to the single market.

“It was not the [referendum] result we wanted,” he said. “But now need to look to the future, work with the [UK] government to make sure that whatever changes happen are as smooth as possible, to ensure stability and that the interests of the automotive sector are protected

“For the moment, business as usual, we remain EU members, we will continue to sell and build here, export and import parts – the industry is in a very healthy state. It is in a robust position to withstand any changes.”

Hawes acknowledges the uncertainties ahead. “Longer term however, there is a clear degree of uncertainty. We will work with the government. We have a very good relationship with the government, which has supported the industry and been a part of the success and we need to ensure that success continues. We will remain successful providing we retain our competitiveness.”

As well as access to the single market, he also pointed out that the UK’s auto industry has thousands of unfilled vacancies and faces a shortage of engineers.

“We want to retain tariff-free access to Europe’s single market and its talent pool,” he said. “We have around 5,000 vacancies in this industry at the moment and we look to the UK, to Europe and beyond, to fill those vacancies.”

He also said that the UK auto sector has a large number of international trade partners. “We trade with over a hundred different countries and clearly we need to secure international trade deals with all the countries we currently have access to and we want to continue to attract investment.

“Competitiveness is at the heart of the success we have had in recent years.”