EUROPEAN bank bosses have claimed they were clueless about Ford’s plans to ditch Southampton’s plant when handing £80m to its Turkey factory.
As previously revealed, the US car giant received the loan for its Turkish plant, where it has been ramping up production – while production tumbled at the Swaythling plant.
Ford is using the cash to upgrade the booming plant in the Mediterranean country, which is not even a European Union member.
South East Euro MPs last night renewed their condemnation of the loan, which they said sealed the fate of the “home of the Transit” in Southampton.
The loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), owned by Britain and fellow EU member states, was agreed in June as part of a multi-billion-dollar investment plan for the 395-acre site in Kocaeli which is taking over all Transit production.
But the EIB last night told the Daily Echo it “strongly refuted” that the loan led to the closure of the Southampton plant.
It said it had financed the production of existing Turkish-made vans and on the back of promises that Ford’s Southampton plant had a future.
A spokesman said: “There is no link between funding in Turkey and the job losses in Southampton. It was an unfortunate decision taken by Ford which impacted on UK jobs.
“Evaluation for this EIB loan was completed in December 2011. At the time of the evaluation, it was foreseen that a version of the new vehicle would continue to be sourced from Ford’s Southampton plant.”
But with the plant closing in July 2013 after nearly 40 years, its Turkish counterpart is set to thrive.
Thanks to the loan, it will be introducing state-of-the-art facilities to prepare for production of a next generation of vans.
The same new models will soon be making their appearance on the quayside of Southampton – having been shipped from a non-EU member with much less workers’ pay and conditions rights.
UK Independence Party leader and South East MEP Nigel Farage questioned why Chancellor George Osborne, a governor of the bank as one of the 27 member states that own it, allowed the loan to go ahead to a country outside the EU.
He said: “The EIB says it is not an issue of timing. But it is a simple fact that UK taxpayers, through the EIB, were subsidising the closure of a UK manufacturing plant. It is just a sweetener to get Turkey to join the EU.”
Daniel Hannan, Conservative South East MEP, said: “Competition is one thing, but it’s outrageous that British taxpayers should be subsidising foreign competitors to our own firms.”