A few days ago I witnessed the London launch of the electric Mini, at the Mini showroom on Pall Mall. A number of BMW staff attended from Munich, as well as the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy.
It was fascinating to hear about how the electric Mini will help reduce carbon emissions. This will not only occur because, provided the energy is provided from renewables, its battery power will be environmentally friendly. In addition, the electric Mini has been created with ‘peer sharing’ enabled, so that a number of family members or friends can share the vehicle using smartphones. It will be possible for all those sharing the vehicle to track where it is parked, leading to more efficient use of the car and fewer unnecessary journeys.
In addition to the switch to electric power, BMW staff talked about how the move to semi- and completely-autonomous vehicles could revolutionise how they are used.
The plans for the electric Mini were exciting and innovative- and a testament to the hard work of all at BMW Cowley.
The development of the electric Mini has been all the more remarkable given the current downturn in the automotive industry. Compared with other areas of manufacturing, the automotive sector had bucked the UK trend of declines in productivity growth. Auto manufacture was also leading the way on exports; four out of every five cars produced in the UK are now exported. However, there has recently been a sharp downturn in investment in automotive in the UK, falling by 80% over the last three years.
There is little doubt that the decline in investment is linked to uncertainty around Brexit. The threat of leaving the EU without any agreements on tariffs- so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit- is intensifying current fears. A number of automotive experts recently suggested, in their pamphlet ‘Keeping the Wheels on the Road’, that ‘no deal’ would be likely to reduce the number of vehicles produced in the UK by around 175,000 in the short term, and up to half a million in the longer-term (up to the end of the 2020s).
It is therefore extremely reckless for some politicians to continue to suggest that ‘no deal’ is a possible Brexit outcome. It would not offer a ‘clean break’ from Europe, but be only the start of yet more protracted negotiations with the EU and the rest of the world.
However they voted in the referendum, many of my constituents have told me that they are ‘sick of Brexit’. ‘No deal’ would just prolong the uncertainty and arguments over Britain’s future relationship with other countries- to all of our dismay.
Last week, the House of Commons voted yet again to try and block a ‘no deal’ Brexit, by stopping a new Prime Minister from cancelling Parliament until the 31st of October. BMW Cowley’s fantastic electric Mini offers us a clean, green vision of the future. I will continue to do everything I can to stop a ‘no deal’ Brexit from wrecking it.