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Economy

Britain roiled by news of Honda's plant closing

Opposition lawmakers step up criticism of prime minister's Brexit plan

Honda will close its car plant in Swindon, England.
Honda will close its car plant in Swindon, England.   © Reuters

LONDON -- Reports that Honda Motor will shut down its local car factory by 2022 have caused a stir in the U.K., with opposition lawmakers blasting Prime Minister Theresa May's government for the departure of businesses due to turmoil over the country's pending divorce from the European Union.

Rachel Reeves, a Labour Party member who chairs the House of Commons' Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, criticized May's efforts to bring the U.K. out of a customs union and single market.

"Awful news for workers at Honda and in the supply chain and a devastating blow to UK manufacturing," Reeves tweeted. "This just can't go on. The PM must immediately take No Deal off the table and keep us in the single market and customs union to protect free and frictionless trade."

The British government is scrambling to contain the fallout. Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, declined to comment directly on the plant closing ahead of an official announcement by Honda. But he cited "a big drop in demand" for cars due to new European rules on diesel emissions, the BBC reported, likely suggesting that turmoil over Brexit negotiations is not to blame.

Justin Tomlinson of the ruling Conservative Party said the planned shutdown is not Brexit-related.

"It is a reflection of the global market," Tomlinson told Reuters. "They are seeking to consolidate production in Japan."

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