BMW’s Oxford workers will have to go on prolonged unpaid leave in case of disruptive no-deal Brexit

Company plans to close Mini-making plant for two weeks but shutdown could be extended to “three weeks or more” if BMW has trouble importing vital components

Olesya Dmitracova
Economics and Business Editor
Wednesday 11 September 2019 15:49

Workers at BMW’s Oxford plant which makes Minis will be left without pay for at least two weeks if a no-deal Brexit results in major disruption of its operations.

The company is prepared to close the site from 31 October and send its 4,500 staff on unpaid leave, chief financial officer Nicolas Peter told the Financial Times. The employees’ paid holiday allowance was already used up in April during a month-long shutdown of the factory, planned before the original Brexit date of 31 March.

“We are not capable of [implementing] a second holiday period in 2019,” Mr Peter said on Tuesday.

Although BMW’s current plan is to close the plant for no more than a fortnight, the shutdown could be extended to “three weeks or more” if the carmaker has trouble importing vital components, he noted.

Speaking at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier on Tuesday, Mr Peter told reporters that BMW will halt production at the Oxford plant on 31 October and 1 November regardless of whether Britain leaves the EU with or without an agreement.

The announcement follows a statement by Toyota last week that it will stop production at its Burnaston factory in Derbyshire on 1 November to prepare for any disruption from the UK’s scheduled departure.

Britain’s car industry has for months been ringing the alarm about the damage it would suffer under a no-deal Brexit.

Despite extensive preparations by firms, such an outcome would wreak havoc with the “just-in-time” supply chains across the English Channel that the industry relies on. Combined with tariffs on exports to the EU, no-deal would threaten the very viability of the sector that employs 168,000 people, according to Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

BMW’s Mr Peter told the FT it is “still too early” to say whether, in case of a no-deal Brexit, production of the Mini will be moved out of Britain.

He added that if World Trade Organization tariffs are imposed after such an abrupt departure, the higher costs will be passed on to customers around the world.

Commenting on the FT article, a spokeswoman for BMW told The Independent: ”We have taken a range of measures to make sure we have a bigger buffer of parts than usual.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “We continue to talk to industry, including the automotive sector, in the run-up to exit day to ensure they are prepared to maximise the opportunities of our exit from the EU.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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