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'This is not related to Brexit': 3,500 jobs at risk after Honda announces closure of UK factory

The firm blamed “unprecedented changes” in the industry for the decision.

Honda cars lined up at Southampton Docks prior to being loaded onto a car container (file photo)
Honda cars lined up at Southampton Docks prior to being loaded onto a car container (file photo)
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

HONDA HAS ANNOUNCED that it will close a major plant in Britain, putting 3,500 jobs at risk as the company became the latest firm to downsize operations as Brexit looms.

The factory in Swindon is Honda’s only EU plant and has produced the manufacturer’s Civic model for more than 24 years, with 150,000 units rolling off the line annually.

The plant will shut in 2021, Honda announced “at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle”.

The decision “has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people”, Katsushi Inoue, the company’s chief officer for European regional operations, said in a statement.

The firm blamed “unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry” for the decision but it comes amid investment uncertainty in Britain ahead of the country’s exit from the EU.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Honda president Takahiro Hachigo said: “I’d like you to understand this is not related to Brexit.”

He said it was “very regrettable” to have to close the plant but said it was the “best choice” given the need to reduce production capacity and reform its global facilities.

The firm also announced it would stop manufacturing the Civic model in Turkey in 2021.

Free-trade agreement

Honda joins fellow car giant Nissan as well as Japanese firms Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi in scaling back operations in Britain ahead of Brexit.

Analysts say that while Brexit was almost certainly a factor for Honda, other reasons were likely to have played a part, including a massive EU-Japan free-trade agreement recently signed and the wider struggles of the car industry.

“Honda seems to have been preparing for this for a long time. Then Brexit happened, which might have pushed the company to make the decision now,” Seiji Sugiura, analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, told AFP.

Speaking ahead of the formal decision, local finance worker Sue Davis, 49, told AFP the move would be “devastating” for the area.

“I think Swindon’s finished without Honda. My ex-husband works there, has done for 20 years. He’s going to be without a job, so I just think it’s really, really bad news.”

Local MP Justin Tomlinson tweeted ahead of the announcement that the decision had been made “based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021″.

- © AFP 2019

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