Brexit warning sparks debate over future of Fawley petro-chemical plant
ONE OF Britain's biggest unions has warned that some of the UK's oil refineries could close in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Unite represents staff at Fawley refinery, one of the huge industrial sites which could be affected if Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal on October 31.
Fawley employs 1,200 people and also provides work for up to 800 contractors.
But a no-deal Brexit could result in UK refineries being hit by a double blow - cheap petrol imports and a 4.7% tariff on fuel exports to the EU, which Britain is due to leave on October 31.
ExxonMobil, which owns Fawley refinery, says it has contingency plans in place to deal with "any potential issues" arising from a no-deal Brexit.
But Unite national officer Tony Devlin cited the small profit margins which existed in the industry.
He added: "The removal of a level playing field will have serious repercussions, with no protection for the domestic industry while exports from UK refineries will face a substantial tariff barrier to operate in the EU market."
Mr Devlin said petrol producers could be forced to make difficult decisions, including closing sites.
He added: “The impact on local economies, jobs and investment, as well as the risk the security of fuel supply for consumers across the UK, as a result of multiple refinery closures, would be devastating to the UK economy."
Mr Devlin refused to say if he thought the Fawley complex could be one of the sites at risk.
Ward councillor Alexis McEvoy said: "If I had any concerns about Fawley I'd be up in arms because so many people depend on it for their livelihood, but my view is that it won't be affected."
As reported in the Daily Echo, the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) has issued a warning about the possible implications of a no-deal Brexit.
Last night Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, said: "The oil industry has put forward a convincing case that setting a 0% tariff (on imports) from the outset could prove a significant blow.
"I welcome the fact it's been flagged up at an early stage. It's precisely the sort of thing which needs to be considered in advance so that the right decisions can be made."
Dr Lewis criticised the doom-laden warnings issued by people "who don't want Britain to leave the EU in any meaningful sense".
He added: "The oil industry representatives are not doing this. They're issuing a timely warning and offering advice which, if taken early, should prevent any serious set-backs."
ExxonMobil declined to comment on claims that some refineries could close in the event of a no-deal Brexit.