It’s tempting, when one reads tales such because the one damaged by my colleague Mark Kleinman at the moment about Honda shutting down its Swindon manufacturing unit, to leap to conclusions.
Inside minutes of the story going reside, commentators on Twitter had been saying this was one more consequence of Brexit.
However whereas Brexit is hardly serving to (we’ll get to that in a second) it’s value on this case being a bit of cautious about placing all of it all the way down to Britain’s choice to go away the European Union.
For one factor, we now have but to have a proper assertion from Honda, so let’s reserve our ultimate judgement for a day or two.
Within the meantime, let’s additionally keep in mind a couple of different necessary elements.
The primary is that Brexit is hardly the one factor occurring within the motor trade at current. Certainly, if something it is a good few locations down the record of main points and considerations dealing with multinational motor corporations.
There are the issues confronted throughout the trade with diesel engines.
There’s the shift to electrical powertrains.
There’s the specter of a worldwide commerce warfare as Donald Trump considers imposing tariffs on automobile imports.
In case you are a strategist deciding the place to construct your plant or make your subsequent automobile mannequin there are, briefly, many essential elements to keep in mind. And if you happen to’re a Japanese automobile maker with a manufacturing unit within the UK there are a couple of different issues to keep in mind too.
The primary of them is that just a few months in the past Japan and the EU signed their free commerce deal, that means tariffs on automobile exports from Japan at the moment are being eradicated, alongside a number of different commerce limitations.
Abruptly, the financial limitations that may as soon as have persuaded you to find your plant within the UK have evaporated.
Then there’s Brexit. And there isn’t any doubt that for automobile corporations the specter of a no-deal Brexit is of deep concern.
Most of those corporations have lengthy provide chains that traverse borders all through Europe and past. They’re just-in-time operations, so a delay of even a couple of minutes can imply the distinction between a worthwhile day of manufacturing and a loss. Any choice to throw sand into the wheels of free commerce (and the EU is the world’s largest free commerce space) will not be encouraging.
Within the case of Honda, the chances are, of all these elements, the brand new Japan-EU commerce deal was essentially the most decisive.
The corporate can now get pleasure from close to frictionless commerce with considered one of its largest markets, with out having to find there. It makes extra enterprise sense to consolidate its manufacturing again into Japan.
Brexit is unlikely to have helped on the margin: no supervisor needs pointless danger, and Brexit poses all types of dangers about entry to worldwide markets. So maybe it contributed a bit, however was it the decisive tipping level? Unlikely.
Nevertheless, the episode raises a deeper problem. It underlines simply how necessary the large commerce offers are, such because the one signed by the UK and Japan.
Word that when the UK leaves the EU it is going to be capable of signal its personal offers. On the one hand that’s cited by many Brexiteers as being one of many key benefits to leaving the EU. Alternatively many of the proof means that with regards to commerce offers, dimension issues.
The UK could punch above its weight with regards to navy and diplomatic issues, however that is largely as a result of it retains a everlasting seat on the UN Safety Council and the IMF govt board.
There is no such thing as a analogous benefit the UK can depend on with regards to commerce negotiations. So making an attempt to forge a commerce relationship that might be advantageous to Britain might be fiendishly troublesome.
Certainly, the UK is starting to be taught this already. At present there have been stories that the UK’s makes an attempt to duplicate that EU-Japan commerce deal as soon as the UK leaves are foundering, and that Japan is decided to hunt extra advantageous phrases with Britain.
The world of commerce and financial diplomacy is a brutal one, as Britain is about to find. And the consequence of these commerce offers is long-lived and large, as we now have seen with Honda’s choice at the moment.