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UK car sector warns on Brexit no-deal 'catastrophe'
[LONDON] Britain's carmaking sector warned on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit would be a "catastrophe" for the industry, two weeks ahead of a key parliamentary vote on London's proposed deal with Brussels.
Industry body Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) issued its latest gloomy Brexit warning at its annual dinner in London, having backed the failed Remain campaign in the landmark 2016 EU membership referendum.
"Leaving without a deal would be catastrophic - plants will close; jobs will be lost," said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.
"Leaving is not what we wanted, but we recognise that the withdrawal agreement has been hard-fought and, crucially, delivers a transition period which steps us back from the cliff-edge.
"We need a deal now, and we need an ambitious deal for the future that guarantees frictionless trade with our most important market - nothing else will do, and we urge all parties to remember what's at stake."
The industry organisation also published the results from a November survey of its 182 UK-based member organisations.
Almost three quarters of those companies believed that a chaotic "no deal" Brexit would damage their business and threaten their future viability.
"The results highlight the critical need for a Brexit withdrawal deal and transition to prevent the industry falling off the cliff-edge on March 29 when the UK leaves its largest and closest trading partner, the EU," the SMMT added.
More than half of respondents said their operations have already suffered due to Brexit trade uncertainty.
A third revealed that they have postponed or cancelled UK investment decisions because of Brexit, while 20 per cent had already lost business as a consequence.
The SMMT has long blamed ongoing Brexit uncertainty for plunging UK investment, warning about the harmful impact of new, post-Brexit customs controls.
UK companies' manufacturing processes are complicated by the need to import raw materials, which have become more expensive due to a sliding pound - caused in turn by Brexit jitters.
The country's car industry employs around 800,000 people and produced 1.59 million cars last year. Some 80 per cent of those were exported, mostly to Europe.