About 500 UK jobs are at risk after an automobile and industrial firm announced plans to close plants amid “uncertainty surrounding Brexit”.

Schaeffler plants in Llanelli and Plymouth are earmarked for closure, with the firm proposing to relocate production to plants outside the UK.

It has started a 45-day consultation on the plans.

In Llanelli, 220 staff are employed in the factory and the Plymouth plant has 350 employees.

‘Body blow’

The union Unite said it would “fight for every job” and try to stop the closures.

Assistant general secretary Tony Burke called the closures “yet another body blow for the UK’s automotive supply chain and the wider car industry”.

And he said it showed “what is in store if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal that secures tariff free frictionless trade”.

Llanelli MP Nia Griffith described her “huge shock”.

“The company has been an important employer in the area for many years,” she said.

“I am worried obviously about the affect on families in the area… and the possible knock-on effect on other local businesses.

“It is important to try to offer the company any help to try to persuade them to change their minds.”

She said the local assembly member Lee Waters had already been talking to the Welsh economy secretary Ken Skates AM to see what was possible.

“A meeting with the company is important as the next step. This again emphasises the need for a clear Brexit plan to give companies and employers security and to end uncertainty,” she added.

‘Short-sighted’

Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton, said the closure was “deeply worrying” and shows the “uncertainty of the hard Brexit”.

“We need to be in a customs union, close to the single market or we will lose even more jobs,” he added.

The site in Plymouth had been producing “some of its greatest output for years”, according to Johnny Mercer.

The MP for Plymouth Moor View said the closure was a “short-sighted mistake” by Schaeffler.

Councillor Deryk Cundy who represents Bynea in Llanelli said the loss of “well-paid” jobs would be a massive blow.

“It will also affect Carmarthenshire and wider. We will need to form a taskforce. [We need] to persuade Schaeffler to rethink their decision,” he said.

Greig Littlefair, managing director of Schaeffler UK, said the firm wanted “transparent and fair discussions with the employees affected”.

Schaeffler, which employs more than 1,000 people at five facilities in the UK, will not be closing its largest plant in Sheffield.

It is anticipated the UK reorganisation will take up to two years to implement.

Juergen Ziegler, regional CEO Europe at Schaeffler, said: “Brexit is clearly not the single decisive factor behind our decision-making for the UK market, but the need to plan for various complex scenarios has brought forward the timing.

“However, we remain committed to keeping certain activities in the UK, a country that will continue to be important to us.”

The closures are part of the firm’s “Agenda 4 plus One” reorganisation plan examining strategic and economic competitiveness and the long-term sustainability of facilities.

The union Unite said it would “fight for every job” and try to stop the closures.

Assistant general secretary Tony Burke said it was “yet another body blow for the UK’s automotive supply chain and the wider car industry”.

He added: “It should leave no one in any doubt as to what is in store if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal that secures tariff free frictionless trade.”

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