French and German manufacturers are 'weaponising' Brexit, says CBI 


French and German manufacturers are ‘weaponising’ Brexit, says CBI

  • European rivals are playing on fear to ‘go after their customers’ 
  • The CBI has faced criticism from pro-Brexit politicians for allegedly being too negative

French and German manufacturers are ‘weaponising’ Brexit to exploit their UK rivals, the head of Britain’s most influential business lobby has warned.

Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the CBI, said numerous businesses had told her that European rivals were playing on fear to ‘go after their customers’.

‘Those competitors from France and Germany are circling,’ she told The Mail on Sunday. ‘Contracts are already being lost to competitors weaponising uncertainty against UK rivals.

Warning: Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the CBI

Warning: Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the CBI

‘What we are starting to see unfortunately, in the renewal of contracts, is that French and German companies are already saying to customers in Europe, ‘Do you want to risk disruption? Do you want to take the risk? Why don’t you renew your contract with us rather than with a UK company?’ ‘

Fairbairn added: ‘Several companies have told me that they have already lost market share to this, that they were fighting for every percentage point and it is so difficult to claw that back. Getting those customers back is going to take years to do.’

Last week, international business news service Bloomberg reported that workers at Peugeot plants in France are hoping Brexit could mean that production of Vauxhall vehicles currently made in Ellesmere Port near Liverpool may be switched to mainland Europe.

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PSA, the French company that owns Peugeot and Vauxhall, is currently planning to split the manufacturing of its new Vauxhall Astra model between Ellesmere Port and a site in Germany.

But Bloomberg said workers at Peugeot sites in France – at Sochaux and Mulhouse – believe they can win UK business in the event of a ‘hard Brexit’.

Bloomberg said workers at Peugeot sites in France – at Sochaux and Mulhouse – believe they can win UK business in the event of a 'hard Brexit'

Bloomberg said workers at Peugeot sites in France – at Sochaux and Mulhouse – believe they can win UK business in the event of a ‘hard Brexit’

Fairbairn said other manufacturers are privately reporting similar challenges.

The CBI has faced criticism from pro-Brexit politicians for allegedly being too negative, but Fairbairn said that if the Government can strike a deal with the EU before the end of October it would ‘breathe life’ into the domestic economy.

‘Leaving the EU with a deal will support economic growth and bring oxygen flooding back into the domestic opportunities that have been ignored,’ she said.

Fairbairn said getting a deal would lead to the growth needed in order to pay for full-fibre broadband, to address our skills gap and to allow investment in education for the next generation.

Boris Johnson’s advisers are understood to have been urging business leaders to refrain from making negative remarks about a No Deal exit on October 31. But Fairbairn added ominously: ‘Without a deal, the economy will suffer very badly.’

 



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