Evidence of the harmful impact of Brexit mounts by the day. The UK car industry will be particularly damaged: on February 3rd Nissan announced that it would now build its X-Trail car in Japan rather than Sunderland.
In an excellent recent New Statesman article, Jonathan Powell, Chief of Staff under Tony Blair, argued ”The Prime Minister and many of her colleagues knew they were doing something that would do great harm to the country but did not dare stop it for fear of being unseated by the extremists in their own party”.[i] In her defence nobody, and that includes the Prime Minister herself, fully realised how much harm would be done; the electorate were seduced by dishonest Brexiteers who pretended it would be easy to forge new trade deals. Nissan has demonstrated the fallacy of that assumption, which, amongst other things, disregards the complexity of supply chains in high value manufacturing and precision engineering.
Here I have some professional interest. I spent my career in management education and training and, in the latter part, specialised in skills development and apprenticeships. In November 2013 I was asked to give evidence to the Select Committee of the House of Lords Inquiry into EU (European Union) action to tackle youth unemployment. I presented a case study of a success story. It related to a factory based in Llanelli, South Wales. Part of the German owned Schaeffler Group, the factory employed 220 people producing high specification bearings for motor engines. It was an exemplary organisation and to quote one of my published articles:
“The company faced increasing competition from low labour cost countries as group production capacity was placed in Eastern Europe (Slovakia and Romania) where wages are a fraction of those in the UK. The company responded by developing the capability to deliver higher value added products. There was a planned focus on continuous improvement, cost reduction and, as an integral component of the process, a sustained attempt to up-skill the workforce”.
On reading of the Nissan decision I plucked up courage to update my knowledge of the Llanelli factory and was saddened, but not surprised, to find the following headline in a 6th November article in WalesOnline: 220 jobs axed with closure of Llanelli auto parts plant due to ‘Brexit uncertainty’. A link to the article is set out below.
This is a tragedy. The plant was established in 1957 and offered high quality apprenticeships in an area of high unemployment and limited opportunities. It was, together with an Indian IT consultancy based in Bangalore, the best managed organisation I encountered in over twenty years researching the subject.
From a comfortable retirement base in North Norfolk I feel very angry. Not just about the dishonesty of Brexit – the charade of ‘we’ll make Britain great again’ – but about the dismal performance of the national leadership of the party that I joined in South Wales fifty years ago. Local Labour representatives in Llanelli, including the excellent MP Nia Griffith, are doing their best; Jeremy Corbyn and his acolytes wouldn’t began to understand what a supply chain is and are in hiding in the hope that a catastrophe will propel them to power. That is a heavy price for a generation of school-leavers to pay: it is easy to destroy opportunities; it takes ages to rebuild. Once factories like Schaeffler Llanelli have gone they are gone for good, taking the quality jobs with them.
So I make no apologies for, in a very modest way, continuing the fight. Following my previous blog in which I drew attention to problems here in North Norfolk, I received a reprimand from the current Chair of the local Labour Party. He is the fourth person to occupy this position in the four years since Momentum took control and the third in succession to try to tell me off for the contents of my blog. He wrote: “even though we may disagree on Labour policy issues we are all members of that broad socialist church”. While the Labour leader behaves in this way, and unscrupulously avoids engaging in the major question of the day, I have no intention of joining Mr. Corbyn and his acolytes where they choose to worship. I will carry on writing as I please.
[i]Jonathan Powell, The rise and fall of Britain’s political class, New Statesman, 30th January 2019
leftyoldman blogs will appear occasionally as the Brexit battle continues and the shape of post Brexit politics emerges. If you would like to receive email notification of future blogs, please press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above. I continue to tweet at @eugrandparents.