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British car industry drives home EU benefits

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s car sector on Wednesday said its growth depended on the country keeping “unrestricted access” to the European single market — a situation thrown into doubt by Brexit.

“Our growth depends on certainty and continued open and reciprocal access to the 100-plus markets with which the UK automotive industry so successfully trades,” Mike Hawes, chief executive of industry body SMMT, said in a statement ahead of an annual conference in London on Wednesday featuring car bosses from across Europe.

“This is not just finished cars but components, technologies and the wider automotive value chain. Any risks and uncertainty to these fundamental benefits need to be addressed head on by UK government,” he added.

Britain last week voted in a referendum to quit the European Union, causing Prime Minister David Cameron to announce that he planned to step down later this year.

Ahead of the vote, major carmakers, including Nissan and Toyota, voiced fierce opposition to Brexit — pointing to the fact that most of their British production is exported to Europe and beyond.

Other leading automakers producing in Britain and thus in the firing line include Jaguar Land Rover’s Indian owner Tata and BMW, the maker of the Mini and Rolls-Royce.

A report also released Wednesday by the SMMT said: “Access to the single market and EU-negotiated international trade deals, the ability to recruit talent internationally and influence new standards have all helped make the UK automotive industry one of the world’s most competitive.

“This has helped attract billions of pounds in investment in recent years, delivering record productivity, job creation and growth.