26/02/2014 03:12 GMT | Updated 26/02/2014 04:59 GMT

Car Giant Hyundai Warns Britain Leaving EU Would Hurt Business

The logo of Hyundai Motor Co. is seen on a car at the automaker's showroom in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. Hyundai Motor Co. said its fourth-quarter profit increased 13 percent over a year earlier thanks to higher overseas sales. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Hyundai has become the latest car manufacturer to urge Britain to stay in the European Union, warning that a British exit would throw up "barriers" to doing business in the country.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Tony Whitehorn, chief executive of the South Korean car giant's UK operations, praised the European Union's single market as 'extremely advantageous" and "very good for us".

“Everything is much easier because of the single market, and if that scenario was changed it would make it more challenging," he added. "The minute you go away from the single market, you reduce the certainty."

Hyundai's intervention on the debate over Britain's place in the European Union comes after car firms including BMW, Ford and Hitachi expressed concern about a British exit.

Hyundai opened its UK headquarters in 2005 in High Wycombe and is now one of the country's top ten car manufacturers, selling 77,500 vehicles last year. Hyundai employs over 3,000 people through its UK operations and dealer network.

Allan Rushforth, chief operating officer of Hyundai's European operations, told HuffPostUK that a British exit would "potentially place barriers between the manufacture and sale of vehicles in mainland Europe and the sale of vehicles in the UK".

"Any potential barrier to freedom of trade would arguably increase costs and reduce the appeal of the UK,' he added.

Politicians seized on Hyundai's warning as proof of the importance of Britain staying within the European Union.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Here is a leading business that employs thousands of people in a key sector of the UK economy making it unambiguously clear that it could be damaging to growth if we weaken our links with the EU.

"We must continue to make the case for Britain being strong in Europe as millions of British jobs depend on it. Currently the Liberal Democrats are the only party making that case"

Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “Major employers are warning on the huge damage the UK leaving the EU would do to Britain, underlining growing concerns on the Tory-led government’s approach which is pushing us towards the exit door and putting investment and jobs at risk.

Catherine Bearder, the Liberal Democrat MEP whose South East region includes Hyundai's High Wycombe HQ, added: "This is yet more evidence that pulling out of the EU would be a disaster for the British economy and shows the damage that a vote for UKIP would really mean.

"Liberal Democrats are fighting to keep Britain in Europe and in work and that is why Nick Clegg has challenged Nigel Farage to an In Out debate."