Doubts over future of UK electric mini

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Media captionBMW's Ian Robertson: "The UK is in a strong position but it's not the only production facility we have"

The head of BMW in the UK has thrown further doubt over whether BMW will build an electric version of the mini in the UK.

Speaking to the BBC at the Geneva Motor Show, Ian Robertson, said: "Somewhere around the middle to the third quarter of this year we will decide where to build the electric mini and we have said all along that we would like to see the UK have tariff free access to the single market.

"It's not the only consideration, but it is a consideration."

In the dark

By car production standards, that is a very imminent decision and here's the obvious point - BMW will not know whether they will have tariff-free access to the EU at the moment they have to make that decision.

In fact, Theresa May has said more than once that she would prefer to have no deal with the EU rather than a bad deal and is prepared to walk away from negotiations.

No deal means falling back on international rules set by the World Trade Organisation and that could mean tariffs on finished cars of up to 10%.

No one - least of all the UK government - wants to see that, but if you are serious about walking away then it is a possibility that the board of BMW must consider when making up its mind in the next few months.

Performance v protection

Not everyone thinks tariffs spell the end of the world for UK production.

Carlos Tavares, the boss of PSA said there may be a strong rationale for keeping some production on the UK side of the post-Brexit fence.

But there is a catch. That only makes sense if you can source parts in the UK. Currently 75% of the parts for an Astra come from the EU.

As Ian Roberston from BMW said, the UK's component supply industry has not kept pace with manufacturing and reversing that will be "a challenge".

According to PSA, BMW and Nissan - that is a challenge where the government can help.

Protecting car manufacturing plants that are uncompetitive is not.

According to Carlos Tavares: "Everywhere around Europe people are looking to be protected. The only true protection is performance."