Former Tory prime minister David Cameron at the Honda factory at Ellesmere (picture: Number 10/Flickr) EU

The threat by multinational Stellantis to shut its Ellesmere Port factory on Merseyside with hundreds of job losses is, on one level, a familiar story. It’s about a greedy firm clamouring for more cash and law changes from the government.

The company is the world’s fourth biggest car maker. It owns brands such as Vauxhall, Fiat, Peugeot and Chrysler and just three months ago was celebrating a “net profit of £15 billion, up 26 percent”.

Now it says the closure could happen because its electric vans will face tariffs—a top-up tax— of 10 percent when exported to mainland Europe from next year. That’s because they will not contain enough locally‑sourced parts to ­satisfy beefed-up European Union (EU) “rules of origin”. And from 2027 the batteries have to be made in Britain or the EU to avoid tariffs.

Stellantis bosses want ­ministers to negotiate new post-Brexit trade rules so they don’t pay tariffs—and keep their profits. The Tories are doing their best to comply. But if it doesn’t happen, they will step up the blackmail.

They will say the plant gets the chop unless the ­government showers them with cash and trade unions accept wage curbs. Far too often states and union leaders in the past have meekly surrendered to such pressure.

Workers at Ellesmere Port should prepare to fight any job or wage cuts and demand nationalisation if Stellantis says it will depart. But the issue also highlights the increasing weakness of British capitalism.                  EU

If firms in Britain produced vehicle electric batteries and the chemicals and minerals they require, there wouldn’t be an issue for Stellantis. Its “local content” would pass the EU rules.

This is a crucial new ­technology for capitalists. It involves huge investment to dig up the basic ingredients, do the refining and then construct the “gigafactories”—giant plants that make the ­finished product.

European countries have 30 “gigafactories” in the ­pipeline, compared to Britain’s one—maybe. The ill-fated Britishvolt project was ­supposed to start British battery production but went bankrupt in January.

Socialists don’t care about in which country products are made. We are for ­international workers’ ­cooperation and abolition of borders.  But bosses care very much about national interests and the states that protect them. EU

Chinese companies ­dominate the electric battery supply chain with over 70 percent global market share in most of its stages. Britain is a “bystander in the global battery arms race”, Simon Moores of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence said to a Commons hearing.

These batteries need lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese. There’s lithium to be extracted in Cornwall. But bosses moaned to the MPs’ hearing that mining companies are going to the US where the Joe Biden administration offers subsidies.

JaguarLandRover (owned by Tata Industries) was expected to announce a new battery plant in Britain soon.  It wants £500 million in subsidies to open in Britain rather than Spain.

At one time rampant British imperialism could send off gunboats and troops to steal raw materials and murder its way to trade deals. Now it has only its ­relatively puny economic pressure and military alliances with Nato and the US. 

Tory disarray sees the Labour Party and unions now urge an “industrial strategy”. This usually comes down to a state deal with multinationals to provide corporate welfare to lure them away from other countries.

Labour wants to “part‑finance” eight “gigafactories”. That means billions diverted from key public services and wages to the coffers of giant firms.  

And there’s another basic point that nobody mentions—mass electric vehicle production is not the answer to climate change. Making such vehicles involves the extraction and disposal of materials on a scale that will worsen the environmental emergency.

A sustainable policy means public transport, not ever-more roads and cars, whether powered by fossil fuels or electricity.

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