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Ford has warned that the competitiveness of the UK’s auto industry will be put “at risk” if Britain leaves the EU without a deal that provides access to the market, in its starkest warning over the future of British production yet.

“No deal would be the very worst case for the UK auto industry and would put at risk the competitiveness of the industry,” it said on Wednesday.

Ford runs two engine plants in the UK, at Bridgend and Dagenham, exporting engines to the continent where they are assembled into vehicles.

It already expects to cut 1,100 jobs from its Bridgend plant by 2021, leaving just 600 employees and casting doubt over the viability of the site.

The US carmaker also said on Wednesday that a transitional deal that allows existing rules to carry on until a new trade deal is formed is “critical”.

The company has vowed to do whatever it takes to remain profitable in Europe, and has not ruled out cutting costs or even closing more plants.

Jim Farley, Ford president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said:

We need an ambitious Brexit deal that maintains strong EU and UK economies, and creates a competitive and investment-friendly environment.

Any deal must include securing tariff-free trade with the wider Customs Union and not just the EU27, whilst retaining access to the best talent and resources.

Given the short timeframe for negotiations, it also is critical that a transitional period is put in place to ensure that customers are not penalized and to maintain free trade.

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