Siemens has warned its plans to eventually export wind turbine blades from the UK will have to be put on hold because of last week’s Brexit vote.
The German industrial conglomerate said the EU referendum decision would not affect its plans to employ 1,000 people at a £160m manufacturing plant in Hull, which is due to start producing blades for the UK’s offshore wind farm industry this year.
But a long-term goal to export blades to Europe and other countries was now uncertain, said Juergen Maier, the company’s UK chief executive.
“In order to do that we need to understand what our export relations are with the EU,” he said, explaining it was not clear if existing free trade links with European countries would continue once the UK left the bloc.
Nor was it known how other trading arrangements arranged through the EU with non-European countries would fare.
“It could be that we end up with tariff-free trade on those blades to the EU and to other countries, but I don’t know,” he told the Financial Times. “All of that has to be renegotiated.”
Mr Maier said the Brexit vote had also cast doubt on wider plans to collaborate on research and manufacturing with other European companies to turn the Humber region into a centre of industry excellence.
“The opportunity to do that at speed is currently much more insecure and potentially in question until we know much more about the arrangements,” he said.
Siemens’ decision in 2014 to invest in Hull was a huge economic shot in the arm for the Humber region.
It followed years of speculation about whether the UK’s wind sector could generate sizeable home-grown manufacturing jobs.
The industry is dominated by European wind farm developers such as Denmark’s Dong Energy and Sweden’s Vattenfall, using turbines made by Siemens and its Danish rival, Vestas.
The UK’s windy but relatively shallow waters have made it an ideal place to build offshore wind farms, and until recently it had more power generating capacity from the schemes than the rest of the world combined.
Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2014 that Siemens’ investment in Hull was “a massive vote of confidence in our long-term economic plan” that would bring financial security for families and “a more resilient economy for our country”