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Jaguar Land Rover boss turns on Government over handling of Brexit

Speeches by business leaders are usually so nuanced they say next to nothing at all.

But this afternoon, in Birmingham, the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Ralf Speth, shared a stage with the Prime Minister and publicly turned on her.

Theresa May was speaking at a conference designed to promote the take up of zero emission vehicles.

In an electrifying speech, Speth took the opportunity to attack both the government’s policy on diesel cars and its handling of Brexit negotiations.

“Tens of thousands” of jobs at Jaguar Land Rover will be lost if the UK leaves the EU abruptly next March, without either a deal or a transition agreement to WTO trading rules.

Jaguar Land Rover has warned it needs greater certainty over Brexit Credit: PA

Ralf Speth told the Prime Minister that, in the even of no deal, production at his the company’s four factories could end immediately on March 30th next year.

“Bluntly, we will not be able to build cars, if the motorway to and from Dover becomes a car park, where the vehicle carrying parts - vital to our process - is stationary.”

Jaguar Land Rover is Britain’s biggest car manufacturer, by volume and value, and employing 40,000 people.

JLR said in July a hard Brexit would cost the company more than £1.2 billion a year, wiping out its profits.

The Prime Minister’s Chequers vision would see the creation of a free-trade area with the EU for goods - allowing cars and parts to circulate freely, as they do today, without any border checks.

The warning here is unambiguous: if the government delivers anything less then the factories will close and jobs will be lost.

New Land Rovers and Range Rovers at a JLR site in Merseyside Credit: PA

Speth didn’t stop there. JLR continues to blame government for an ongoing slump in sales which the company attributes to an “anti-diesel” agenda.

The decision to hike Vehicle Excise Duty for new diesel cars in last year’s Budget combined with the occasional negative comment by ministers have enraged a company that harbours all-electric ambitions but whose current product range is 90% diesel.

In April JLR blamed cited public policy for the decision to lay off 1,000 temporary workers at its Solihull factory.

Speth says diesel sales are still falling and warns that, unless something changes, unless the government becomes more outspoken about the advantages of diesel then there will be more job losses to come.