EU referendum: Rolls-Royce warns its staff of Brexit risks

Employees receive letters from BMW-owned firm warning that EU exit could raise costs and jeopardise trade.

The chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which is owned by BMW, has written to all its workers in Britain to warn that exit from the European Unionwould drive up costs and prices and could affect the company’s “employment base”.

The letter, leaked to the Guardian, is one of six sent by the bosses of each of BMW’s British companies, including MINI, to their staff each warning of the dangers of UK withdrawal. It comes after the government warned that car-makers would be among those badly hit by Brexit in a civil service report.

Torsten Muller-Otvos, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, told staff that the decision about whether to remain in the EU would be down to British voters.

But he added: “Free trade is important for international business. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars exports motor cars throughout the EU and imports a significant number of parts through the region.

“For BMW Group, more than half of MINIs built and virtually all the engines and components made in the UK are exported to the EU, with over 150,000 new cars and many hundreds of thousands of parts imported from Europe each year.

“Tariff barriers would mean higher costs and higher prices and we cannot assume that the UK would be granted free trade with Europe from outside the EU. Our employment base could also be affected, with skilled men and women from most EU countries included in the 30 nationalities currently represented at the home of Rolls-Royce here at Goodwood.”

Out campaigners will be angry about this intervention by BMW, asking why a German multinational is wading into the debate over Britain’s future in the EU.

Both Rolls-Royce and BMW admitted that emails and letters had been sent out to 8,000 employees, including workers in Goodwood, West Sussex, and Oxford. The parent and its subsidiary insisted that they were not trying to influence their staff when it came to the June referendum.

All letters said that Britain would have to abide by EU regulation rules whatever the outcome of the referendum. “We believe it’s much better to be sat at the table when regulations are set and have a hand in their creation, rather than simply having to accept them.”