Siemens boss: UK becoming 'a laughing stock' amid Brexit turmoil

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 2 Apr 2019

The UK boss of Siemens has said “enough is enough” as he warned MPs a no-deal Brexit could cause “irreparable damage” to the manufacturing sector.

Juergen Maier CBE, CEO at Siemens UK, said Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest deal defeat on Friday had moved the country “dangerously close to permanent damage.”

He said the UK was becoming “a laughing stock,” and said if a Brexit solution was not found quickly, the damage on manufacturing could be severe.

Siemens is currently planning to build a new £200m train factory in Goole, in a move which would create hundreds of new East Yorkshire jobs.

Writing an open letter to MPs, Mr Maier said: “This letter is a direct plea at a time of increasing national crisis in the U.K.

“Brexit is exhausting our business and wrecking the country's tremendous reputation as an economic powerhouse. The U.K.’s historic stable political climate has facilitated huge investments from companies like Siemens over the years, and we are at risk of losing that critical pillar of economic stability. I know this view is held by many of my colleagues leading businesses here too.

“As time has worn on, and with the prime minister’s deal defeated yet again on Friday, this political frenzy has moved us dangerously close to permanent damage for the U.K.

“From the outside, it’s very difficult to follow the political ins and outs and the only certainty that remains is that failure to agree a deal or an alternative way forward before April 12 will lead to a hugely damaging no-deal Brexit. Many of you already know this.

Read more: From £200m train factories to 800 new homes - Goole set for remarkable change

“The U.K. Office for National Statistics on Friday confirmed investment is in its worst slump since the last recession, and we already know 80 percent of businesses say Brexit has damaged investment decisions. Worse, the damage this is doing to the country's hard-won reputation as a serious and stable place to do business is now all too real.”

Mr Maier said where the UK used to be considered “a beacon for stability,” it was now quickly “becoming a laughing stock.”

Prime Minister Theresa May says she will stand down after Brexit is delivered

He said he was now unable to defend the actions of MPs in Westminster, and said he was finding it difficult to fight for investment that impacts on UK jobs.

The Siemens UK boss warned conversations being had across Europe about the country “would not play out well for our economy.”

He said: “What makes this worse is that the majority of MPs, and many sensible members of the government, understand these arguments. They have no desire to see the U.K. crash out and they know that we need to maintain a close economic and political relationship with the EU through a "softer" Brexit.

“Without compromise and action though, we will leave with no deal.

“This will certainly lead to short-term economic turmoil, but my big worry is that in the long-term it will create irreparable damage, particularly to manufacturing and high-tech sectors. That will cripple our hopes of competing in the fourth industrial revolution.

“Business was broadly supportive of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May's government, but it has been repeatedly and comprehensively rejected by parliament. The current approach has failed. It has been clear for weeks that the only way that this will be resolved is through compromise between the government and parliament.”

Read more: Siemens named UK's best rail firm ahead of opening Goole train factory

Mr Maier said he hoped to see a deal reached for a UK-EU customs union – a move he said would form “an essential part of frictionless trade and saves businesses billions every year in pointless and unproductive customs declarations.”

He said Parliament must now come together to find a majority view which would benefit the whole country.

“It would be deeply irresponsible to simply let the clock run down and then present parliament with an 11th-hour choice of the government's deal or no deal. If we get to that point the chances of a no-deal Brexit by accident would be dangerously high,” he said.

“So, my message to MPs is simple. Enough is enough. We are all running out of patience. Make a decision and unite around a customs union compromise that delivers economic security and stability.

“People’s livelihoods are at stake, and our reputation as a country for stable and sound business investments could be in tatters by the end of the week if you fail.

“This is your last chance to come together to build a new consensus for Britain and then allow us to move on from Brexit, to the many other issues that need so desperately sorting in our country like our industrial strategy and skills agenda.

“Please do not waste this critical week.”

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