Ford reduction in investment shows need for Brexit deal – says Skate 0

Ford-reduction-in-investment-shows-need-for-Brexit-deal-says-SkateFollowing production cuts at the Ford engine plant in Bridgend, environment secretary Ken Skates has stressed the need for Britain to keep free trade with Europe after Brexit.

Production of its new generation of petrol engines is set to be halved at the facility in South Wales.

Skates has demanded assurances regarding the security of 500 jobs which was a stipulation of £15 million of state aid.

“We want to make sure that there are jobs in that plant for decades to come,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

On Tuesday, Ford announced that it would cut investment in the plant from the previously planned £181 million to £100 million. The auto maker said as yet there were no plans to reduce the current workforce at Bridgend.

“Fluctuations” in global demand have been blamed for the reduction in investment, in a statement the company said they expected demand to fall and be “lower than originally planned”.

The current low value of the pound has been identified by industry experts as part of the problem for Ford, as imports have become more expensive as a result.

Ford hasn’t yet mentioned Brexit directly as being the reason for the change, but Mr Skates did raise it as a factor when questioned about the developments when interviewed on Good Morning Wales.

“In order to get stability for Ford and others in the automotive sector, what we need from the UK government is a firm commitment to access to the free market in order to create stability within the currency markets,” he said.

“It’s fair to say there have been many warnings since the referendum. There are opportunities in terms of exports, in terms of attracting more visitors to Wales.

“We have been presenting a business confidence plan to make sure we capitalise on the opportunities but of course there are challenges, and I think this is one of the many challenges that has been highlighted.”

This decision by Ford to scale back investment comes almost a year since the deal was announced. At the time, the then economy Minister Edwina Hart said it would “safeguard more than 750 skilled Welsh jobs for many years”.

The plant at Bridgend beat competition from other Ford installations in Germany, Spain and Romania for the investment, and was backed by £15 million from the Welsh government.

The public money relates to a new line of Dragon engines.

“Normally we expect jobs to be secured for a minimum of five years,” Mr Skates said, “I wish to speak to Ford to gain assurance that jobs will be secured for a longer period.

“We wish to know how Ford will be stimulating demand for that product globally.

“We don’t just wish to secure jobs for the short and long term – we want to make sure there are jobs in that plant for decades to come.”

This is the first major corporate announcement in Wales since the Brexit result.

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