Directors of an engineering firm in Storrington have come out strongly in favour of Britain remaining in the EU.
Tesla Engineering, which employs about 275 people at its site in Water Lane, manufactures electromagnets for the medical and scientific industries - for instance, it supplied 1,300 superconducting magnets for the CERN Large Hadron Collider in 2006, and manufactures components for MRI scanners and proton beam therapy machines.
Managing director Dr Mike Begg, on behalf of the board of directors, has written to 750 of the company’s UK suppliers, setting out why they want Britain to stay in the EU.
“Membership of the EU is very important for Tesla,” he wrote. “95 per cent of the company’s output is exported, with 51 per cent going to the EU, and deliveries leaving Storrington many times every week for international destinations.
“Because of EU membership the Company also enjoys favourable treatment when bidding for large projects in European Research Laboratories. In fact, only last month the Company won a contract from the prestigious European Synchrotron Research Facility in France; this work will be completed over the next three years. In addition, the Company is a partner in a collaboration, funded by the Government of the Netherlands, to develop a highly innovative magnet for high field magnetic resonance imaging.
“If the UK votes to leave the EU in the referendum in June, the implications for employment at Tesla could be significant. The Company would be unlikely to qualify for EU grants, or manufacturing contracts for any further European Research projects.
“If the UK was outside the EU there would likely be some customs procedures to be complied with before goods could reach the EU. This would not normally create a problem, but if there were to be industrial action at any of the European border control points our goods would be delayed - which in turn would prevent Tesla’s customers from meeting their delivery promises. In such a situation it is likely that these customers would give preference to a supplier based within the EU. This preference could result in the loss of jobs within Tesla in Storrington and also from Tesla’s UK supplier base.
“The uncertainty created by this referendum will at best delay investment decisions both at Tesla and our valued European customers – delay that will only assist our competitors.
“Furthermore, in recent years Tesla has grown its business significantly and to do this it has often found it necessary to bring skilled staff into the UK to fill specialised vacancies. The free movement of labour within the EU is very important for Tesla.
“Some say that if we vote to leave the EU, the UK is guaranteed a free trade relationship like the ones enjoyed by both Norway and Switzerland. What they do not reveal is that such arrangements always include businesses complying with all EU regulations, and so there is no competitive advantage for Tesla being outside the EU to compensate for the disadvantages mentioned above.
“The directors of Tesla support our MP Nick Herbert in urging everyone to vote for the UK to remain in the EU, to maximise the chances for Tesla to prosper for another 40 years.”
A copy of the letter was sent to Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert, who is chairman of the ‘Conservatives In’ campaign.
He visited the company on Friday April 22 to take a tour of the factory and meet Dr Begg and company chairman Dr Jim Ramage.
Dr Ramage said their main concern is employment, with a decision to leave the EU likely to make it much harder for them to get customers in Europe.
For example, he said, a Dutch company would be far less likely to choose to deal with a firm in the UK when it could deal with one that is inside the EU.
“I don’t see any benefits [to leaving] only worries,” he said.
“Our customers decide what we will produce, and what standards it will abide by - we have to follow EU rules whether we’re in the EU or not.”
Dr Begg added that the free movement of people within the EU also benefits them. He said they have a multi-national workforce, including Dutch, Polish, and Italian workers, all fulfilling skilled specialist roles for the firm, and have useful links to a Dutch university.
“It’s a very cosmopolitan workforce here - most nationalities from the EU are represented.”
Mr Herbert said: “There are a lot of things that we can improve about the EU - we can make it more competitive.
“I couldn’t look people in the eye, having the view that I do about the economic consequences of leaving, and not say anything.”
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