United States (US) automaker Ford is preparing to close its engine plant in south Wales in September 2020 in a “hammer blow” to more than 1,500 workers there, Britain’s GMB union said on Thursday.

The move was to be confirmed at a meeting Thursday between company officials and union leaders, with a formal announcement from Ford expected later in the day, according to media reports.

“We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement, it’s a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend,” GMB regional organiser Jeff Beck said in a statement.

“Regardless of today’s announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh government to find a solution to the issue and mitigate the effects of this devastating news.”

Workers were being given the news at briefings inside the plant and are then expected to leave for the day.

Ford has operated the plant in Bridgend, just west of the Welsh capital Cardiff, for decades and it remains one of the region’s major employers.

However, the American auto giant announced last month it was cutting 7,000 jobs worldwide, 10% of its global salaried workforce, as part of a reorganisation.

The news of Bridgend’s pending closure is the latest blow to the British car industry.

Honda has announced plans to shut its plant in Swindon in central England in 2021, while fellow Japanese car-maker Nissan reversed a decision to build its new X-Trail vehicle at its Sunderland plant.

Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, is also shedding jobs in Britain as the industry a whole faces up to huge challenges, including the switch to electric vehicles.