UK government must keep free trade with the EU, warns Ford’s CEO

Ford CEO: Free trade is a high priority for us

Keeping free trade with the European Union must be the priority for the upcoming Brexit negotiations, the chief executive of Ford told CNBC.

"What's really important to us is a stable trade environment between obviously the U.K. and the EU and that's our big priority, because we want to continue to build a profitable business and also secure a stable future for our over 14000 employees that we do have in the U.K," Mark Fields, president and CEO at Ford Motor Company, said.

The U.S. carmaking giant is one of the best examples of how firms based in the U.K. could be impacted from Britain's departure from the EU. Ford's factory in Dagenham supplies diesel engines to the rest of Europe and any hurdles to such supply could affect the business across the member-bloc.

"We are obviously monitoring the environment and the developments so we can factor that in our scenarios and at the same time we're being very forward in going to the various governments in the UK and the EU…about what our priorities are and what the impacts this could mean to the economy," Fields added.

Mark Fields, president and Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company.
Mark Neuling | CNBC

Data released Tuesday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that tariffs related to Brexit could add up to £1,500 ($,1871) to the average cost of an imported car.

John Leech, head of automotive for KPMG in the U.K., said in a statement accompanying the SMMT report that "the UK automotive industry is already the most productive in Europe but faces increasing competition from lower cost countries and uncertainty following the U.K.'s vote to leave the EU."

Recently, the Japanese carmaker Nissan struck a deal with the British government to ensure it would continue investing in the U.K. despite the uncertainty around the Brexit vote. Nissan was unsure whether to proceed with investments in Sunderland after the Brexit vote.

Both Nissan and the U.K. government have been criticized for not making public the "reassurances" given to the carmaker in exchange for its investment commitment.

"I don't know what was given to Nissan," Fields told CNBC, indicating that Ford is willing to keep investing in the U.K. but at the expense that free trade with the EU is not disrupted.

"We want to contribute to economic development but what is a high priority for us is free trade between the EU and the U.K.," he said.

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