Honda to close British auto plant as Brexit looms

Honda CR-V

Honda has said it plans to close its vehicle factory in western England in 2021, imperiling 3,500 jobs in a fresh blow to the British economy as it faces its March 29 exit from the European Union.

Honda made the announcement just a few weeks after Nissan reversed a decision to build the new X-Trail at its Sunderland, U.K., plant.

The Honda Civic hatchback plant employs about 3,500 people plus another 3,500 from subsidiaries and supply chain partners who rely on the plant, which the automaker said will close in 2021.

Honda confirmed the planned closure on Tuesday. The global automotive industry is facing fundamental changes: "technological, commercial and environmental, as well as escalating trade tensions, and all manufacturers are facing hard decisions", Hawes said.

Honda Motor Co. makes its popular Civic model at the factory, 115 kilometres (70 miles) west of London, with an output of 150,000 cars per year.

Under Hachigo, Honda is undergoing a sweeping restructuring of its global footprint.

Staff in the Wiltshire town - which voted 55% in favour of Brexit in the 2016 referendum - said they were angry about the development.

Ford (F) is also cutting thousands of jobs in Europe, and Unite the Union has said the American company plans to cut about 1,150 jobs in the UK. It also announced it will stop building the Civic sedan in Turkey in 2021. Honda now says that the number isn't big enough to justify the factory's existence beyond its current production schedule.

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In a statement, Honda said: "This proposal comes as Honda accelerates its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry".

At the time, a statement from the company was released that said: 'Honda has been assessing how best to prepare for any disruption caused by logistics and border issues following the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on March 29'.

Greg Clark said even while Honda said Brexit was not to blame for this decision a no deal Brexit would be a "hammer blow" to the industry.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said he was "very concerned" at the news from Swindon and called it a "sad indictment" of the United Kingdom government's approach to Brexit.

He said it was "very regrettable" to have to close the plant but said it was the "best choice" given the need to reduce production capacity and reform its global facilities.

Analysts say that while Brexit was nearly certainly a factor for Honda, other reasons were likely to have played a part, including a massive EU-Japan free-trade agreement recently signed and the wider struggles of the auto industry.

(Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images)Why is the Swindon Honda Factory closing?

Honda said it would not be providing any comment on the "speculation".

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