Prime Minister David Cameron has embarked on a series of election-season trips, also touring the bustling British car plants, seeking attention as the local auto industry is enjoying a newfound renaissance.
Cameronis preparing to seek reelection in May, campaigning on the assets he says have lifted the British economy back to recovery – but he refrained from touching a very sensible subject for the automotive industry: how will it survive if the country backs out of European Union membership. That’s because one of his campaign promises revolves around an in-out referendum on European Union membership. Meanwhile, the bustling UK car industry, which has managed last year to overtake France to become the third-biggest in Europe, would be one of the hardest hit if Britain leaves the EU. “There’s no doubt that the auto manufacturers think the U.K. should stay in the EU,” comments John Leech, an analyst at KPMG. If today’s growth rates are sustainable, industry experts believe automakers in the UK will reach record production levels by 2017.
That would be the same year Cameron has pledged a referendum on European Union membership, seeking to release some pressure coming from rivals in the anti-EU British Independence Party. Though Britain remains outside the EU single currency, the membership offers numerous advantages for the carmakers: tariff-free access to a market of 500 million people, free continental movement of workers, a seat at the negotiations table when industry rules are discussed and labor costs at around half the size of the German auto industry – actually on par with Spain, for example.