Mini shutdown fuels no-deal nervousness

BMW i8 engine production at Hams Hall

Nervousness about the impact of a no-deal Brexit has caused BMW Group to schedule its annual shutdown of its Mini factory in Oxford for April 1 – immediately after the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union.

It took the decision “to minimise the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption” should no deal be in place.

Its engine plant at Hams Hall is currently unaffected while the automotive manufacturer assesses the most appropriate time to schedule a shutdown fot its West Midlands site.

A BMW Group spokesperson told that “scheduling of maintenance periods at our plants in Swindon, Hams Hall and Goodwood are dependent on a number of other factors”.

He added: “Decisions for those plants will be made in due course”.

BMW’s decision created a lot of noise – fuelled by Jaguar Land Rover’s two pronouncements in the last week about the risk to thousands of jobs of a bad Brexit and its decision to implement a three-day week at Castle Bromwich – although much of the commentary overlooked that it has an annual shutdown for maintenance.

However the potential impact of no deal being agreed is a major concern for businesses in the region, according to research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

A survey of its members found 44% believe that a no-deal Brexit will have a negative effect on their ability to do business, although roughly the same proportion had not yet started to plan for the possibility.

FSB Warwickshire and Coventry area lead, Rich Bishop, said: “Looking at this research it is obvious that our small firms are not prepared or ready for a chaotic no deal Brexit and the impact that it will have on their businesses.

“If you sell your products to the EU, buy goods from the EU or if your business relies on staff from the EU, you now see this outcome as a clear and present threat to your business.

“It is deeply troubling that the prospect of a no deal Brexit is seeing many small firms shelving business decisions, pausing investment and more drastically, thinking about cutting staff.

“The concern is that with only six months to go before exit day, we are now in a race against the clock to avoid a situation where we crash out of the EU causing significant damage to our smallest businesses. This must be avoided at all costs.”