Honda factory closure: did Swindon vote for Brexit in the EU referendum?

Honda factory closure: did Swindon vote for Brexit in the EU referendum?
Honda factory closure: did Swindon vote for Brexit in the EU referendum?

The closure of factories in Britain’s Brexit climate usually provokes a conversation about whether the local community voted Leave or Remain.

After Japanese car giant Honda announced plans to shut its factory in Swindon in 2021 resulting 3,500 job losses, people have been asking the question again.

In Swindon, voters opted to Leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

Honda has explicitly said the decision to shut up shop in Britain is not linked to Brexit.

But this has not put off Remainers from criticising those who campaigned for Brexit, and blaming the result of the referendum on why major companies are rethinking their manufacturing future in Britain.

Why is Honda closing the factory?

A statement from the car manufacturer said the decision to close the site coincided with Honda’s plans to accelerate “its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry”.

“The significant challenges of electrification will see Honda revise its global manufacturing operations, and focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes,” it said in a statement.

Honda said the current role of its UK manufacturing business as a global manufacturing hub may no longer be viable.

However, there was no mention of Brexit in Honda’s statement.

Honda Europe’s senior vice president Ian Howells told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is not a Brexit-related issue for us.

“These other changes which are now coming at us globally we have to now respond to.”

Honda is to shut a major plant in Britain, putting 3,500 jobs at risk (Photo: AFP/Getty)
Honda is to shut a major plant in Britain, putting 3,500 jobs at risk (Photo: AFP/Getty)

So it’s not because of Brexit?

Not according to Honda.

But that hasn’t stopped Remainers from pointing the finger at Brexiteers.

“Brexiteers told us repeatedly that warnings about the impact of Brexit on car manufacturing in the UK were false,” said Conservative MP for Bracknell Phillip Lee, who is in favour of a so-called People’s Vote.

He said the closure showed “project fear” was “project reality”, adding: “Every job lost is on the heads of those who misled people so badly.”

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said: “Jaguar Land Rover, then Nissan, now Honda announce thousands of jobs to be lost in the UK.

“The PM’s bungled Brexit negotiations continue to send chills through the economy. It’s time to end this uncertainty and take the prospect of no deal off the table.”

How did Swindon vote in the referendum?

Swindon – made up of two constituencies: North Swindon and South Swindon – was one of the first areas to declare a Leave result in 2016.

Nearly 55 per cent of the population voted for Brexit. Justin Tomlinson, the pro-Leave MP for North Swindon, said the country had “an appetite for change”, while pro-Remain MP for South Swindon Robert Buckland said he was “disappointed” by the results but that people were “looking at the long-term future”.

Since the Honda announcement, both MPs have said they will support all workers who will be affected by the factory closure.

What about other car factory closures?

Earlier in February, it was announced that Nissan would not make its next-generation X-Trail in Sunderland as planned, but in Japan instead.

This came despite the Government’s so-called sweetheart deal of up to £80 million to protect the firm from higher post-Brexit trade tariffs.

Nissan said the decision was taken “for business reasons” but warned that Brexit was having an impact, saying: “The continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours plan for the future.”

Voters in Sunderland also backed leaving the EU.

In January, Jaguar Land Rover said it would be axing thousands of jobs as part of a cost-cutting plan partly driven by concerns over Brexit.

Other car manufactures have issued stark warnings over Brexit. Toyota has said a no deal would stop production at its Burnaston plant on a temporary basis. The area, which is part of the Derbyshire constituency, voted to leave the EU.

Ford, which has a factory in Dagenham, could review its operation in the event of a no deal. Barking and Dagenham also voted to leave the EU.

BMW has said it might stop production at the Mini factory near Oxford for a month after Brexit, if Britain leaves without a deal. Oxfordshire voted to stay in the EU.