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Honda has said it plans to close its vehicle factory in western England in 2021, imperiling 3,500 jobs in a fresh blow to the British economy as it faces its March 29 exit from the European Union.

But the announcement comes at a particularly hard time for the Welsh auto industry with nearly 400 voluntary redundancies expected at Ford in Bridgend, and the closure of Schaeffler in Llanelli, resulting in 220 job losses.

Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson insisted before Hachigo's confirmation that Honda's decision was not down to Brexit. The departure of Honda so soon after Nissan u-turned on a decision to build its X-Trail SUV in Sunderland presents another blow to the current government.

The announcement comes just weeks after Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to cut 4,500 jobs, or about 10% of its workforce.

Mrs May told the weekly meeting of the Cabinet that she had spoken to the president of Honda to express her "disappointment" at the decision to close the Swindon plant.

The Japanese vehicle giant failed to respond to requests for comment over the proposal which comes less than six months after bosses pledged support for the plant, but confirmation is expected on Tuesday.

Honda has a plant in the in the western province of Kocaeli that commenced the production of Honda's Civic sedan model vehicles at the end of 1997. The company also announced a year and a half ago it would shut down a plant in Japan, also in 2022.

"As Honda have said, this is a commercial decision based on unprecedented changes in the global market". They are clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021.

"This is a devastating decision for Swindon and the United Kingdom", business secretary Greg Clark said this morning.

The decision was a fresh blow to the British economy as it faces its exit from the European Union on March 29.

However, Des Quinn of the Unite workers union Unite, said: "While Brexit is not mentioned by the company as a reason for the announcement, we believe that the uncertainty that the Tory government has created by its inept and rigid handling of the Brexit negotiations lurks in the background". The Japanese group, which has no other plants in Europe, will import from Japan following the closure.

Honda announced plans for a six-day closure, in an effort to prepare for any Brexit-related issues, just last month. The factory now makes the Honda Civic and is capable of producing as many as 150,000 of the cars a year, CNN reported.

Japan has repeatedly warned it could pull investments in Britain, which it had seen as a gateway into Europe, if London does not secure a Brexit deal favourable for trade. Consultation activity will begin today with potentially affected employees.