Philips has announced plans to shut a UK factory with the potential loss of 430 jobs, months after expressing worries about a possible hit from Brexit.
The Dutch healthcare company said it aimed to close its Philips Avent baby bottle plant at Glemsford in Suffolk in 2020 and transfer most of the work to its home country.
It stressed the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit was not the primary factor in its decision, despite the company’s chief executive Frans van Houten warning late last year it may have to “rethink” its manufacturing operations.
He had said maintaining a customs union was a “minimum” requirement for the company.
The decision was announced less than 48 hours after Theresa May’s Brexit deal was heavily defeated by MPs – prompting business groups and Labour to demand that a no-deal exit was now taken off the table.
Philips mainly blamed the closure of its only manufacturing plant in the UK on a programme, started in 2017, to consolidate its sites globally from 50 to 30.
However, its statement added: “Philips needs to pro-actively mitigate the potential impact of various ongoing geopolitical challenges, including uncertainties and possible obstructions that may affect its manufacturing operations.
“Philips has therefore been reconfiguring its supplier base and supply chains in North America, Europe and Asia as appropriate.
“The flexibility associated with its regional, multi-modality manufacturing sites is key to these mitigation actions.”
The company said the primary focus at Glemsford was the production of one product for export.
Philips currently employs a total of 1,500 people in the UK and sources indicated investment would continue in its other interests, including its development operations.
The staff affected by the closure are being consulted over redundancy.
Neil Mesher, chief executive of Philips UK & Ireland, said: “I recognise that our proposed plan will have a profound impact on our colleagues working at the Glemsford site, and our manufacturing presence in the UK.
“We have announced the proposal after careful consideration, and over the next period, we will work closely with the impacted colleagues on next steps.
“Philips has a long, established history of serving customers within the UK, and we remain committed to them.
“The UK is an important market for us, and we will continue to invest in our commercial organisation and innovation programmes in the country.”
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