The economist was left unable to answer a question from Neil on the biggest recipient of foreign investment in the last year during a debate on Ford confirming plans to close its plants in Bridgend. Economics professor David Blanchflower answered “good question, no idea” while speaking on BBC’s Politics Live. Mr Neil and other members of the panel clarified “United Kingdom”, before the BBC host said: “But other than that it’s slowing.”
Mr Blanchflower hit back: “Well no, it is slowing, we know the global economy is slowing.”
Mr Neil argued: “It’s slowing everywhere, what I’m trying to work out, because undoubtedly on the automotive supply chain Brexit is not a help. I perfectly get that.
“But what I’m trying to establish is what has it got to do with Bridgend?
“This specific decision, where because of the row over diesel, the move to electric cars – “
The economics professor at Dartmouth College interjected: “Remember we’ve had the same story about steel in Scunthorpe, I mean this is not just an auto story.
“We’re starting to see companies moving, this is the first time in a decade we’ve started to see big plants closing. Remember in 2008 this great recession, we didn’t have big plants closing, so this is a new story.”
The debate follow Ford confirming plans to close its plant in Bridgend, South Wales, by the end of next year, causing the loss of 1,700 jobs.
The global car giant ‘s decision has been met with shock by employees, union officials and people living in the area, who called it “frightening”.
After speculation began on Wednesday, Ford today said it had launched a consultation with unions over “the potential closure” of the plant.
It blamed the decision on “changing customer demand and cost” after the president of Ford Europe, Stuart Rowley, earlier told reporters it “had nothing to do with Brexit”.
The factory is set to close in late 2020 and plans have been drawn up to offer workers jobs at other Ford sites.
The GMB union said it represented a “real hammer blow for the Welsh economy” and the timing of the announcement – the same week Donald Trump spoke of a trade deal with the UK – only “makes it worse”.
GMB regional organiser Jeff Beck said: “We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement, it’s a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.
“Regardless of today’s announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh Government to find a solution to the issue and to mitigate the effects of this devastating news.
“What makes it worse is Donald Trump is in this country talking about a possible trade deal with the UK and the US – yet if the plant does close the new line is likely to be produced in Mexico by an American company.”
He added: “So much for the special relationship, Mr Trump.”
General secratary of Unite, Len McCluskey, called Ford’s decison a “grotesque act of economic betrayal” to Britons who have stayed loyal to the firm through the years.
He said: “These workers and this community have stayed faithful to Ford, as have UK customers – this is still Ford’s largest European market – through thick and thin, but have been treated disgracefully in return by this company.”
Ford opened its plant in Bridgend in 1977 and went on to become one of the biggest workforces in South Wales.
The closure comes after the GMB union released a report which said that the number of manufacturing jobs lost in the UK over the past 10 years tops half a million.
Research showed employment by manufacturing companies fell from 3.4 million to 2.9 million between 2008 and 2018 – a 14 percent drop.