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The richest man in Britain and Brexi Supporter Jim Ratcliffe has abandoned plans to build a new SUV in the UK, dealing another blow to an auto industry that has already been hit by the country’s exit from the European Union and the pandemic.
Ratcliffe is the founder of Ineos, a chemical company, and has a fortune valued at nearly $ 28 billion ($ 37.5 billion), according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ineos said in a statement Tuesday that its first vehicle, the Grenadier 4×4, will be built at a plant in Hambach. France, which the company is buying from Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz.
Jim Ratcliffe
Britain’s richest man and Brexit supporter Jim Ratcliffe, seen here in 2019, has abandoned plans to build a new SUV in the UK. (CNN / Getty)

“Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply could not ignore – to purchase a modern automotive manufacturing facility with a world-class workforce,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. Named after the London pub in which it was conceived, the SUV will go into production late next year.

Ineos had planned to produce the SUV at a new plant in Bridgend, Wales, creating 500 jobs. Ratcliffe said in a statement last year that the decision to base production in Wales was a “significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson He echoed that sentiment at the time, saying that manufacturing the Grenadier in Wales was “a vote of confidence in the UK experience” that would ensure that “we maintain our status as a pioneer in new vehicle technologies”.

The reversal is a major setback for Bridgend. Ford recently closed an engine plant in the South Wales city that had been in operation since 1977 and employed about 1,700 people.

“It is overwhelming news that the Grenadier car will now be made in France instead of Bridgend, especially after the closure of the Ford plant,” Ed Miliband, a business spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said in a statement Tuesday.

A new plant would have been a unique opportunity for the UK auto industry, which has been hampered by years of uncertainty over Brexit. Production has plummeted dramatically and the industry has warned that failing to strike a new trade deal with the European Union before the December deadline would cost it £ 47bn ($ 84.5bn) over the next five years.

Johnson travels to Brussels on Wednesday in an attempt to salvage a deal with the European Union. If the new trade deals are not finalized, UK-made cars will face 10 per cent tariffs when exported to the bloc from January 1, severely damaging the industry’s competitiveness.

Boris johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London to attend a cabinet meeting at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on December 8, 2020. (AP)

“Boris Johnson’s hesitancy, delay and non-compliance appear to have resulted in the loss of two major employers in the area, and it is devastating that Welsh communities are paying the price for their incompetence,” added Miliband.

The Society of UK Car Manufacturers and Traders warned last month that leaving without a deal would cut production by 2 million vehicles over the next five years, and annual production would steadily fall below 1 million units, roughly the half of what the industry planned to produce in 2020. just a few years ago.

“We need a future business relationship that works for the auto industry. We have already spent close to a billion pounds preparing for the unknown of Brexit and lost 28 times more to COVID. Let’s not get too counting the cost of fees,” SMMT said President George Gillespie in a statement in November.

Another prominent Brexit-supporting billionaire, James Dyson, moved the headquarters of his high-end home appliance company from the UK to Singapore in 2019 because Asia offered the “world’s largest and fastest growing market.” Just a few months later, it abandoned plans to start making an electric car in Singapore.

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