In the wake of the EU referendum, when the Vote Leave brigade was still trying to work out what Brexit actually meant, I visited the warehouse complex of Unipart, once one of the country’s biggest car part suppliers and now a leading logistics partner to automotive companies such as Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen. The firm employed more than 6,000 people in the UK and had a turnover of £900m, selling components to companies such as Volkswagen. Its warehouse site covered an area totalling a million square feet.
The site in Cowley, just outside Oxford, had previously housed the factory for British Leyland, the firm that came to symbolise the failure of British manufacturing in the 1970s and from which Unipart emerged. John Neill, the Unipart executive chairman, said that he feared that Britain was risking economic catastrophe . “It’s desperate,” he warned. “The Brexiteers are playing roulette with my customers and my suppliers and my employees and our communities.”