FORD has come under attack from unions after announcing it is to close its engine plant in Bridgend next year.

The decision will lead to the loss of 1,700 jobs at the South Wales factory, and many more in companies supplying goods and services to the plant.

The news was being confirmed at a meeting between company officials and union leaders, sources said.

Ford's European president, Stuart Rowley, said: "Creating a strong and sustainable Ford business in Europe requires us to make some difficult decisions, including the need to scale our global engine manufacturing footprint to best serve our future vehicle portfolio.

"We are committed to the UK, however, changing customer demand and cost disadvantages, plus an absence of additional engine models for Bridgend going forward make the plant economically unsustainable in the years ahead."

The company stressed that the decision was not related to Brexit and blamed the ending of a contract with Jaguar Land Rover and a fall in sales of petrol engines amid huge changes in the car industry.

The closure, due in September 2020, deals another huge blow to the car industry.

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."

Workers were being given the news at briefings inside the plant and are then expected to leave for the day.

The site opened in 1980, covers an area of 60 acres, and is one of Wales's major employers.

Unions have previously warned of a ballot for strikes if compulsory redundancies are made.

The news is the latest blow to the UK's car industry.

Honda has announced plans to shut its Swindon plant in 2021, while fellow Japanese car-maker Nissan reversed a decision to build its new X-Trail vehicle at its Sunderland plant.

Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India's Tata Motors, is also cutting jobs.

Ford also has another engine plant in Dagenham, Essex, and a plant making transmissions in Halewood, Liverpool.

Ford announced last month that it was cutting 7,000 white collar jobs worldwide, with up to 550 expected in the UK.

Former Welsh Government leader Carwyn Jones, currently Assembly Member for Bridgend, told the Press Association: "This has all been very sudden. There was no warning about this at all. It seems to me that any decision, whatever that decision is, would have been taken very recently.

"From my perspective I want to know what's going on as to with the workers and want to know a reason for the decision, and to work with Welsh government to see what we can do to help the workers here.

"It's the biggest single employer in the area, I remember it being built in the late 70s. There are relatively few suppliers locally but there are a number of businesses that provide services for the plant itself and they would be severely affected because for a lot of them this is the only contract they have."

"I do know that Ford said themselves in October publicly that a no-deal Brexit would mean they would rethink their investment strategies for the UK.

"If it is the worst news here, is that part of that re-think? They will have to explain."

A minister has hit out at Labour MPs for blaming the potential closure of Ford's Bridgend factory on Brexit.

Trade minister Graham Stuart said the automotive industry is in "massive global flux" and trying to link every decision to Brexit is to lead people astray".

He was answering a question in the Commons from Labour's Geraint Davies (Swansea West), whose father worked at the Welsh Office and had convinced the car firm to move to Bridgend.

The MP said the workers in the area, which voted for Brexit, "did not vote to lose their jobs" and argued they "deserve a final say on the final deal and to stay in the EU and not lose their jobs".

But Mr Stuart hit out at this "false argument for a second referendum", saying that the people of South Wales wanted to leave and not hear "weaselly words from the party opposite".

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