The co-chairman of Leave Means Leave has branded the news that BMW will stop building cars at its Oxfordshire Mini plant after the UK exits the EU as “a Brexit-bashing story”.
John Longworth joined Julia Hartley-Brewer on the talkRADIO breakfast show to discuss the temporary shutdown of the car plant, and said: “All they’ve [BMW] have done is bring forward the normal period of shutdown for refurbishment.
“It’s a prudent thing to do, but it’s been manipulated into a Brexit-bashing story.”
BMW said essential updating will start on April 1 at the site in Cowley, near Oxford, and last several weeks.
'Minimise risk of disruption'
A statement said: "Planned annual maintenance periods at BMW Group production sites allow essential updating and equipment replacement to be completed over several weeks, while there is no production taking place.
"As a responsible organisation, we have scheduled next year's annual maintenance period at Mini Plant Oxford to start on 1 April, when the UK exits the EU, to minimise the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
"While we believe this worst case scenario is an unlikely outcome, we have to plan for it.
"We remain committed to our operations in Britain, which is the only country in the world where we manufacture for all three of our automotive brands."
'No Project Fear predictions after referendum came true'
“I think it’s worth remembering that all of the Project Fear predictions that were made regarding the referendum itself, none of those came true,” Longworth said. “The economy is continuing to grow very well.”
“We’ve got slower growth than most of EU, though,” Hartley-Brewer challenged.
- Read more: Honda boss says no-deal Brexit will cost the car company 'tens of millions'
- Read more: Jaguar Land Rover warns of ‘horrifying’ results of hard Brexit
“That’s not true,” Longworth said. “We’ve got much lower levels of unemployment, we’re actually performing very well as a country. All those things have been proved not to be true, so you have to ask why we’d believe those things now.”
Statistics show that in 2016, the economy grew more than expected at a rate of 0.6% in the final quarter, despite predictions of a slump following the Brexit vote.
But in 2017, the UK fell behind other G7 nations and fell to its lowest growth rate since 2012, as quarterly growth fell to 0.4%.
The unemployment rate is currently 4%, down from 4.2% last September.
Motor industry fears
BMW's announcement follows warnings from the motor industry and trade unions about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Jaguar Land Rover announced that workers at its Castle Bromwich plant are to go on a three-day week.
A spokesman said: "In light of the continuing headwinds impacting the car industry, we are making some temporary adjustments to our production schedules at Castle Bromwich."
Honda said on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit would cost it tens of millions of pounds.