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UK car investment stalls amid Brexit fears
[LONDON] Investment in British car production fell by almost half in 2018 in a "disturbing" trend partly due to uncertainty over Brexit, according to figures released Thursday by an industry body.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) annual data showed investment in the sector was down by 46.5 per cent on the previous year, to £589 million ($769 million, 673 million euros).
Meanwhile overall car production fell by 9.1 per cent as "domestic and global downturns take effect", it reported.
The steeper than expected declines prompted the head of the SMMT to reiterate warnings that leaving the European Union without a deal would be "catastrophic" for the industry.
"The figures for last year are disturbing," said Chief Executive Mike Hawes.
"(It) shows that investors are pausing. They're waiting to see what the situation is going to be on the long term relationship between the UK and the EU."
Noting their stance was "understandable", Hawes added: "That is why we need a deal as quickly as possible to try to unlock some of that investment for the future."
Britain is gripped by uncertainty as it prepares to leave the EU on March 29 after 45 years of membership.
The country's future relationship with the bloc remains unresolved after MPs earlier this month overwhelmingly rejected the divorce deal Prime Minister Theresa May struck with Brussels.
The ensuing parliamentary paralysis has raised the prospect of Britain - the world's fifth biggest economy - crashing out of the EU without a deal and operating on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.
Mr Hawkes warned such a scenario would result in "friction at borders (and) a loss of competitiveness".
He said: "To leave without a deal would be quite frankly catastrophic for the industry.
"What we need now is a degree of pragmatism."