Production of Minis could be moved out of Britain if Brexit talks do not deliver a favourable result, the boss of the German car giant BMW has hinted.
Speaking at the car maker’s annual meeting in Munich, chief executive Harald Krueger appeared to ratchet up the pressure on Westminster and Brussels to settle a deal which does not harm the car industry.
“We hope for pragmatism from all parties in the Brexit negotiations,” said Mr Krueger. “That means no new barriers to trade, free movement for skilled workers.”
The company’s Oxford factory turns out more 200,000 Minis a year and BMW bosses are currently deliberating over where production of a new electric version of the iconic car – expected to be a huge hit – should be located.
BMW already has a smaller plant producing Minis in the Netherlands and there are fears the company could abandon its Oxford site for a continental plant if there is a “hard Brexit”, means 10pc trade tariffs and customs red tape.
“We are planning in terms of scenarios,” Mr Krueger told shareholders. “You know that we make Mini models at VDL Nedcar in the Netherlands. We’re flexible.”
It is not just the UK that would suffer from a failure to agree a Brexit deal. European car makers sell more of their products in the UK than British manufacturers sell in Europe.
BMW has 18,000 staff in the UK, including at the Mini plant, Rolls-Royce factory in Sussex and engine and components production bases in Birmingham and Swindon.
Adding to the tension over the company’s future in the UK, it is in the middle of a round of strikes as workers battle over plans to change their pension schemes.
Talks between staff and the company are ongoing, with union sources hinting that a solution could come soon. “There is a deal to be done,” said one insider, adding that management appear to have eased their previous stance and are now discussing all options.
BMW’s annual meeting also heard that the company is bringing back the 8 Series coupe as it battles rival Mercedes for the title of largest premium car manufacturer.
Revealing the move, Mr Krueger said the company was “switching attack mode” with the new €100,000 (£84,000) 8 Series “underpinning our claim to leadership in the luxury car segment”.
Selling more expensive cars is part of BMW’s plan to finance the development of electric vehicles and self driving technology.