Several factory shutdowns went ahead even though Brexit was delayed.

British car manufacturing fell by almost half in April as a result of the shutdowns planned to coincide with the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that just under 71,000 cars rolled off UK production lines in April. That’s 44.5 percent fewer than the 127,970 cars that were built on these shores in the same month of 2018.

Recent months have seen manufacturing outputs fall slightly, with various political and economic conditions impacting demand both domestically and abroad. However, April’s drop-off in production was far greater than seen previously - a phenomenon the SMMT puts down partly to the Brexit-related shutdowns that took place that month.

Vauxhall Ellesmere Port

Several car companies with factories in the UK had planned shutdowns to help them cope with the so-called ‘Brexit day’ on March 29. BMW, Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall had all decided to halt production at UK plants in a bid to mitigate any ill effects to the supply chain caused by the UK’s split with the EU. Despite the fact Brexit was pushed back, the companies still went ahead with the planned shutdowns, leaving production figures looking grim.

In all, 13,669 cars were built for the UK market last month, while 57,302 were built for foreign customers. That leaves production for the first third of the year down by more than a fifth (22.4 percent) compared with the same period in 2018. By the end of April last year, almost 570,000 cars had been built in the UK. In the first four months of 2019, however, the UK had built just over 440,000 cars.

Honda Civic production Swindon UK

With roughly 80 percent of those vehicles destined for foreign shores, and the European Union accounting for more than half of those, the SMMT has long campaigned for a no-deal Brexit to be “taken off the table”. Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the numbers showed just how damaging Brexit was to the car manufacturing industry, and how dangerous a no-deal Brexit could be.

“Today’s figures are evidence of the vast cost and upheaval Brexit uncertainty has already wrought on UK automotive manufacturing businesses and workers,” he said. “Prolonged instability has done untold damage, with the fear of ‘no deal’ holding back progress, causing investment to stall, jobs to be lost and undermining our global reputation. This is why ‘no deal’ must be taken off the table immediately and permanently, so industry can get back to the business of delivering for the economy and keeping the UK at the forefront of the global technology race.”

Mini Oxford plant