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Brexit-supporting Ineos boss to build new 4x4s in France instead of Wales
8 December 2020, 18:12 | Updated: 8 December 2020, 18:27
Vocal Brexit-supporting billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has scrapped plans to build a new car factory in Wales and will instead produce a new range of vehicles in France, it emerged today.
Firm Ineos issued a statement saying the building at the 'Smartville' factory complex in Hambach, France, will build the company's new 4x4 vehicles following a deal with Mercedes-Benz to take over the site.
Production of the Grenadier car was due to begin in Bridgend next year and was expected to bring back 500 manufacturing jobs recently lost in the town.
Ineos began hinting that plans could change during the summer, when it suggested the site in the Moselle region of France looked more attractive.
The company said on Tuesday the new factory was "well located for access to markets, suppliers and automotive talent".
The decision is the second major blow for Bridgend as it had been planned to be beside the now-closed Ford engine plant.
Ford shut its factory in September after 40 years, with the loss of nearly 1,700 jobs, in a long line of car manufacturers to leave the UK or reduce output over Brexit concerns.
Ineos boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe, an ardent Brexit supporter, said: "Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply could not ignore: to buy a modern automotive manufacturing facility with a world-class workforce.
"Ineos Automotive set out a vision to build the world's best utilitarian 4x4, and at our new home in Hambach, we will do just that."
During the EU referendum, he declared that the UK would "thrive" without red tape from Brussels before moving to tax haven Monaco.
The site currently builds electric vehicles, which Ineos will continue to produce, but the move is expected to be harsh news for Wales, with politicians actively lobbying the multi-billionair for investment in the region.
Chris Elmore, MP for Ogmore in Bridgend, tweeted the decision was a "crushing blow" for the area.
"The highly-skilled and dedicated workforce in Ogmore, Bridgend and surrounding areas would have risen to the challenge. Today's news is a hammer blow," he wrote.
"That Brexit is clearly a major factor at play is a bitter pill to swallow. Ineos owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe was a vocal Brexiteer, loudly proclaiming the benefits of leaving the EU. Today, we can see his claims are as hollow as his promises."
The new cars will start being built late next year and "gives excellent access to supply chains, automotive talent and target markets", the company said.
Around 1,300 jobs will be created as a result of the move, Ineos added.