Free movement of EU workers ‘critical’ for UK car industry

Published 16 November 2017

Ending free movement of EU workers would have critical consequences for the UK car industry, MPs have been told.

Speaking to the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Ford issued a stark warning against a no-deal, cliff edge Brexit scenario by telling MPs that it is critically reliant on a constant flow of engineers and specialists from Europe. 

Ford’s Dagenham engine plant employs 1830 people and produces almost 800,000 engines a year, with 85 per cent exported to the EU. However, with a no-deal Brexit making headlines, Ford has said that restrictions to EU workers would have critical consequences for its UK-based operations because of a shortage of home-grown engineering talent, specifically in relation to software engineers to support emerging areas of activity around electrification - a view that’s shared by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

"We'd need 180,000 new engineers every year from now until 2022 to fill the skills shortage. And that’s before you consider the implications of Brexit."

“We simply don’t have enough engineers in the UK. We'd need 180,000 new engineers every year from now until 2022 to fill the existing skills shortage. And that’s before you consider the implications of Brexit,” said Joanna Cox, head of strategic engagement and partnerships at the IET.

“During our national survey, two thirds of employers said a lack of engineering staff was impeding the growth of their business. Ending free movement of EU workers will only make things worse and damage the competitiveness of UK-based businesses.

“It all boils down to the fact that the UK doesn’t do enough to encourage young people into engineering careers. Some students are put off because they think that it's just about oily spanners, but engineering is so much more than that. Carmakers, for example, need talent to develop autonomous and electrification tech, but sadly they cannot find the specialists they need here in the UK. Hence they are forced to look further afield.”

Presenting detailed analysis to a committee of MPs, Ford also voiced concerns over a re-introduction of traditional border controls between the UK and the rest of Europe. Using Dagenham-built diesel engines as an example, Ford said a significant increase in post-Brexit customs documentation would cause delays and increase overhead costs, with every engine requiring individual paperwork before it could be cleared to leave the UK.

The Government has already been accused of being stuck in "listening mode" by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with its chief executive Mike Hawes calling on action and an interim deal that will maintain the single market and customs union membership and protect jobs until a complex new agreement is finalised with the EU.


magicthighs303    on 17 November 2017

Big organisations are always bemoaning the shortage of engineers. When you look more closely they actually mean "there's a shortage of engineers prepared to work 40-60hrs per week for £25-35K/yr".
They expect degree qualified engineers with 5-10 years of training and experience to be available in the employment market for £25K!! So basically they want to be able to pay engineers the same as unskilled warehouse order pickers doing shift work!
They have got used to this being the state of affairs since the enlargement of the EU into the former Warsaw pact countries. They are terrified at the thought of having wages increase, so they want everyone to be terrified as well. The IET/IMechE/IEE should call this behaviour out on behalf of their (paying!) members, and lobby for better wages instead of acting on behalf of the global companies at the expense of their members. What do the IET/IMechE/IEE have to say about so many engineering graduates going straight into banking and finance?? Not surprisingly they don't have much to say about that.
There are large numbers of engineers in China and India, so why haven't car manufacturers already moved all their product development and production abroad If that's their overriding concern?
As an engineer the only way to find out how much you are really worth is to work on a limited company consultant basis.
Ron Swanson

Graham Saunders    on 19 November 2017

Time for Ford to abandon it's 'project fear' stance and deal with reality. We're leaving and there is no proposal to prevent foreign workers from coming to UK as they always have.

Diggerssenior    on 20 November 2017

Ford's will just do their usual thing and move the manufacturing base from the UK. The diesel engine is suffering from a decline in demand and its inevitable the low demand will make the economics of building a diesel engine in a stand alone plant marginal.

Fords have plants across Europe that can take up this engine build in more up to date factories.

They're not loyal to the UK and all we have to do is look at the winding down of body and assembly operations in teh UK viz, Dagenham, Halewood, Cork and small manufacturing operations and moving teh capability to elsewhere around the world.

N8B    on 20 November 2017

Well thats fine, the British people voted to leave so they can work at the British Carmaker that is left , Morgan , dont vote for something daft and then complain, of course Ford has little time for it, they are American and Global where as we want to play Little England

timadeus    on 20 November 2017

If Ford cannot be bothered to train their own engineers in the UK let them move the engine plant to Turkey alongside the Transit van factory that was set up with EU subsidies that ended many years of production in Southampton.

Philip Andrews    on 22 November 2017

I I was staggered to see when I had a tour around the BMW Mini plant in Oxford the assembly line workers were EE's and women as well!

Edited by Philip Andrews on 22/11/2017 at 14:52

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