Blog: Brexit to blame for collapse of Britishvolt, says ex-Tory leader William Hague – The Independent

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Brexit is to blame for the collapse of the British electric car battery start-up Britishvolt causing hundreds of job losses, according to former Conservative leader Lord William Hague.

The Tory grandee said the failure of the company – which had plans to build a giga-factory in Northumberland – was “part of the damage” of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Britishvolt made the majority of its 300 staff redundant on Wednesday after appointing administrators when it failed to raise enough funding for its Cambois site.

“That is very concerning and it’s a sad reflection probably on Brexit,” Lord Hague told The News Agents podcast at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

“Because what do you need in some of these technologies? You need scale. You need to know there’s a big market. If you’re going to succeed with batteries, you’re going to need big manufacturers to be in the same market using those batteries.”

Lord Hague added: “So that’s part of the damage that’s been done by leaving the EU.”

Lord Hague, who ran the Tories as leader of the opposition between 1997 and 2001, said Britain is not going back into the EU single market “for many years to come – if ever”.

But he argued the UK can still have a “successful strategy” on the economy, even if Brexit means the nation is “running uphill more”.

Britishvolt had been developing a £3.8bn giga-factory in Blyth and received tens of millions of pounds of financial backing from the metals multinational Glencore. But in November it fell into emergency funding talks after revealing it was close to entering administration.

Opposition MPs said the collapse of Britishvolt was a symptom of wider failures and a “hammer blow” for the Rishi Sunak government’s levelling up agenda.

Labour said the collapse was a “disaster” for the UK car industry and a symptom of wider failures, while the Scottish National Party (SNP) said it was an “abject failure of the mythical levelling up agenda”.

And MPs on parliament’s business select committee launched an inquiry into UK electric vehicle battery production after the collapse of Britishvolt.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee said the inquiry will probe the supply of batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing in the UK and the viability of production in the UK.

Recent turbulence in the UK electric vehicle sector also saw BMW halt production of the electric Mini at its Oxford site in October.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said Britishvolt’s set up in Northumberland had been “lauded by the government as their flagship example of levelling up”.

Mr Reynolds added: “They must also accept some accountability for its failure, because, much like their levelling up strategy, all we have been left with is an empty space instead of what was promised … It’s a symptom of a much wider failure.”

The Tory business minister Graham Stuart said the government was still committed to expanding electric vehicle (EV) capacity, explaining that no money from its automotive transformation fund was provided to the company because it was unable to meet the conditions.

Mr Stuart also said the government would continue to work with investors to encourage them to develop similar proposals on the site.

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