By Costas Pitas
LONDON (Reuters) – Ford is expected to announce on Thursday that it is closing its engine facility in Wales, a source told Reuters, putting at risk 1,700 jobs in what would be the latest blow to Britain’s car industry.
Ford is making cuts in several markets to turn around loss-making operations but has also repeatedly warned the British government that it needs free trade to be maintained with the European Union after Brexit, the terms of which remain unclear.
Its Bridgend plant built around 20 percent of Britain’s 2.7 million automotive engines last year but a contract to supply Jaguar Land Rover ends in 2020 leaving a run of its own Dragon petrol engines which are sent abroad to be fitted into vehicles.
The site employs around 1,700 people with union officials due to meet representatives from the U.S. carmaker on Thursday.
“If our worst fears are confirmed it will mean disaster for both our members in Bridgend and the community at large, who we will stand by the tough thick and thin,” said GMB union organizer Jeff Beck.
A spokeswoman for Ford declined to comment on Wednesday on what she said was speculation.
Britain’s once roaring car sector, rebuilt since the 1980s mainly by foreign carmakers, has been posting slumps in sales, output and investment since 2017.
In January, Ford said that as part of a turnaround effort in Europe it would cut thousands of jobs, look at plant closures and discontinue loss-making vehicle lines.
Britain’s Unite union said at the time it expected nearly 1,000 job losses at Bridgend.
Ford’s British-built engines, which are shipped for fitting in vehicles in Germany, Turkey, the United States and elsewhere, could face delays and extra costs if Britain leaves the EU without securing a deal with the European Union.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)