There is ‘no good Brexit’ for UK car parts boss

A Mini on the assembly line in Oxford, UK. Car-sector companies are shaking up manufacturing processes because of fears that Brexit will make trade harder. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2018
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There is ‘no good Brexit’ for UK car parts boss

CANNOCK: “There is no good Brexit!” insists Greg McDonald, chief executive of Goodfish Group, a UK-based company making plastic components for the country’s key car sector.

The small company, nestled in the Midlands not far from Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city, sells one third of its products to mainland Europe, with weekly shipments to Poland and one every 10 days to the Czech Republic.

In addition, most of what the group sells in the UK ends up being shipped overseas.

To help Brexit-proof the business — and the whole auto industry is worried about potential disruption at ports — Goodfish is looking at possibly setting up production facilities in central or eastern Europe.

“It’s our way of combating potential loss of business and also (ensuring) future growth,” McDonald, 56, told AFP.

“If you’re a business owner and all your investment and all your wealth is tied up in your business, which is mostly the case (here), you don’t wait to be told by the politicians what the final outcome is.

“You make plans to address the situation as you see it,” said McDonald, who has lived in France, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland.

Goodfish is not alone among car-sector companies shaking up manufacturing processes because of fears Brexit will ultimately make trade harder.

The industry body, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), has blamed Brexit uncertainty for plunging UK investment, warning about the harmful impact of new, post-Brexit customs controls.

The Midlands is home to 40 percent of the UK’s 186,000 auto sector workers, including Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which has already taken the plunge into Europe.

JLR recently opened a €1.4-billion ($1.6-billion) factory in Nitra, western Slovakia, its first in continental Europe ahead of Britain’s planned EU departure on March 29.

UK companies’ manufacturing processes are complicated by the need to import raw materials, which have become more expensive owing to a sliding pound — caused in turn by Brexit jitters.

“Of course we’re suffering from weak sterling because of the fears of Brexit,” McDonald said.

UK manufacturers who have survived previous difficult financial cycles “are the exporters,” McDonald pointed out.

A young company with 125 staff, Goodfish was founded in 2010 and has annual turnover of more than £10 million ($12.8 million).

How it builds on its success is likely to depend largely on the final terms of the UK’s post-Brexit trade agreements.

The draft document agreed with Brussels this week states that during a transition period ending on Dec. 31, 2020, EU law will apply to give businesses time to prepare for new ties.

This means the UK will continue to participate in the EU Customs Union and the Single Market.

It allows Britain continued market access to the remaining 27 EU countries but it must respect the rules on free movement of goods, capital, services and labor without having any say in EU decision-making.

“Of course a customs union gets around most of the problems but having to follow the rules of the EU without actually having any say on what these rules are — that’s definitely a worse position” than now, McDonald said.


Saudi Arabia swaps crude oil for olive oil

Updated 21 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia swaps crude oil for olive oil

Arab News LONDON: A German company has won an order to build a masive olive oil mill in Saudi Arabia that will be the largest in Asia.
GEA won the order from The National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC), one of the largest agricultural and food-processing companies in the Middle East.
The scope of the project, located in the region of Al-Jouf, is expected to encompass 5 million olive trees from a single farm of 3,000 hectares, GEA said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Once the construction process is completed, this facility will be largest and most modern olive oil mill in Asia,” said Rafael Cárdenas, head of the Center of Excellence for Olive Oil at GEA.
Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy, are investing heavily in developing their domestic food industries in an effort to reduce their reliance on imports and boost their food security.
The contract to build the Al-Jouf olive oil mill is the second phase of an ongoing project and will enlarge the existing olive oil plant that was built in 2016.
Al-Jouf Agriculture Development Company is the largest modern olive farm in the world.