So long, farewell etc etc

Nobody heard him, the dead man

But still he lay moaning;

I was  much further out than I thought

And not waving but drowning

Bye-bye Honda. So long Nissan. Off you pop Dyson. See y’ later Sony, Farewell…oh you get the picture.

The surprise announcement yesterday that Honda would be closing its factory in Swindon sent reverberations through the media, government and the swings and roundabouts of Swindon (see what I did there?!). Not least because it came hot on the heels of Nissan’s news that the new version of the school-run favourite the X-Trail SUV would not, after all be built on the banks of the Wear but in Japan. Also, of course, because it was news that got to most of the Wiltshire workforce via the grapevine (or social media as I think we’re supposed to call it now).

Honda is the latest name to decide that, after all, the UK is probably not, at the moment, the best place for its investments and future growth plans.

Obviously, the knee-jerk reaction is that all this is down to our impending Brexit. However, it’s never as simple as that.

The global market for a lot of things, not just automobiles, is stuttering. Of the 160,000 Honda Civics a year that passed through the Swindon factory, more than 90% were exported to Europe and the US.

Ah. Europe. So, it’s not because of our imminent departure from the EU…But it sort of is.

The Japanese group had already announced plans for a six-day shutdown to prepare for any Brexit-related disruption. This leads on from what I was saying a couple of weeks ago. If, with 39 days to go, no-one, either in government or outside of it, has any confidence that we will leave with any clear trading deals about the import or export of motorised vehicles in place, then how can we expect companies to invest. Or even stick with us, you know, just in case.

Much like the EU turned from a cosy little trading arrangement into a bureaucratic behemoth, so the idea of ‘taking back control’ has mutated into something far messier and more difficult than anyone anticipated. Well, anyone who thought it was a good idea anyway. Those who were derided as ‘project fear’doom-mongers may be feeling as though vindication will shortly be theirs.

No amount of campaigning for a People’s Vote, or a delay to Article 50 is going to solve the immediate issues that are caused by none of us knowing what the hell is going to happen. It’s the inability to properly plan for the future that’s the killer.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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