A union has accused Boris Johnson of playing “no deal roulette” with the livelihoods of thousands of workers after Vauxhall said Brexit threatened the future of one of its UK factories.
Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Vauxhall’s owner PSA, is reported to have warned production of the Astra at its Ellesmere Port plant in north-west England could be moved abroad if Brexit made it unprofitable.
The comments will spark fresh alarm among more than 1,000 workers at the Cheshire plant and many others in the local supply chain.
Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, urged Boris Johnson to take a no-deal Brexit off the table, accusing him of “posturing” as the new prime minister said he would ramp up preparations for a radical break with the EU.
He said the workforce would “fight tooth and nail” to protect current car production at the plant, with staff “ready to do everything” in their power.
Unite, which represents many car workers at the factory, said their work trying to secure new models was now “hanging by a thread,” with a no-deal Brexit likely to cause “catastrophic” barriers and tariffs.
“Boris Johnson and his team need to come to Ellesmere Port and tell this talented workforce directly that they will not send them to the dole queue,” said Turner in a statement released by Unite.
“A no deal Brexit, or a deal that throws up barriers and tariffs would be catastrophic for Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port workers and the UK car industry and make plants inefficient, components less attractive and cars built in the UK more expensive for export.”
“We will not sit back and allow PSA Group to walk away from making cars in the UK to then sell cars made elsewhere back into what is the fifth biggest car market in the world,” he added.
Tavares told the Financial Times on Monday: "Frankly I would prefer to put [the Astra model] in Ellesmere Port, but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable, then I have to protect the rest of the company and I will not do it. We have an alternative to Ellesmere Port."
Britain’s budget watchdog warned earlier in July a no-deal Brexit would send Britain into recession, with unemployment, import costs and trade barriers soaring while foreign investment and the value of the pound slide.
Recent days have seen a dramatic escalation of rhetoric from the UK government, with Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, saying it was a “very real prospect” on Sunday.
A no-deal Brexit is increasingly seen as the default option despite countless warnings it could be catastrophic for the UK, as Johnson and EU figures show few signs of willingness to compromise to secure a deal to continue frictionless trade.