Honda pauses UK production after COVID-19, Brexit delays

Japanese automaker Honda on Wednesday, December 9, suspended production at its British plant after suffering a shortfall in parts, after blockages at ports caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

Honda UK said it was pausing work for the day at its only car plant in Europe, in Swindon, west of London, "due to transport-related parts delays."

"The situation is currently being monitored with a view to restart production as soon as possible," it said in a statement.

The Swindon plant, which Honda has earmarked for closure next year with the loss of 3,500 jobs, operates on a "just in time" production system under which parts arrive on site only when needed. 

Britain's biggest container port at Felixstowe, in eastern England, has been experiencing coronavirus-linked delays for weeks and some cargo ships have been diverting to mainland Europe, notably Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

But problems have also now spread to the port of Southampton, in the south, as importers bid to stockpile goods before a possible "no deal" outcome in trade talks between the UK and European Union (EU).

Tim Morris, chief executive of the trade association UK Major Ports Group, said the COVID-19 pandemic had "caused unprecedented volatility in global supply chains."

"The situation at the UK's ports is improving following commitment of extra resources, working closely with customers and ports across the UK taking on more traffic," he said.

"However, we are not complacent. Improvements at UK ports will take time to work through supply chains, they remain very busy and the underlying problem is global."

The situation will be exacerbated if Britain crashes out of the EU's single market at the end of the year without a deal, necessitating quotas and tariffs on cross-Channel trade for the first time in decades.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to fly to Brussels later Wednesday, with hopes for a post-Brexit trade deal hanging on crisis talks with EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. – Rappler.com