Union bosses accused Honda of betraying its workers and the town of Swindon after it confirmed it would be moving ahead with the closure of its plant at South Marston in just two years’ time.

But staff leaving the factory gates after being told the news yesterday afternoon seemed more resigned than anything else.

Workers and their union officials had tried to keep the factory open and had asked the Japanese car giants to make it the centre of its European operations for manufacturing electric vehicles.

But after the statement by Honda saying the company hadn’t changed its mind, Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “We await the detailed reasons from Honda, but Unite believes that our alternative case to keep Honda Swindon open added up and was likely to be backed by the government with public money.

“It would have made Honda a global leader in emerging battery technology and in a strong position to exploit the growing global market for electric vehicles in the coming years.

“Instead we have this body blow which is nothing short of a betrayal of the workforce, customers and the wider supply chain which relies on Honda Swindon for work.

“Unite can only conclude that Honda is taking a strategic decision to retreat out of Europe in favour of protecting its North American operations and avoiding president Trump’s tariff threat on cars made in Europe.

“Unite will be consulting with its members on our next steps in the coming days.”

One man, 34, who has been at the plant for the past three years, said: “Everybody knows they’re going to close it. Today, the fact they’ve closed it – nobody’s surprised. It’s how it has to be. It’s life. I already have a new job.”

Another, cycling from work yesterday afternoon, said: “I’m just gutted, to be honest.”

“It’s fine,” added another woman. “It is what it is – you can’t change it.”

A fourth said there was no difference in the feeling in the plant following the announcement the jobs were definitely going: “It’s about the same.”

In the nearby Rat Trap pub Samantha Kilby, 28, said: “It’s scary. There are a lot of people there with young families and mortgages. The thought of me being in that position petrifies me.”

Earlier in the day workers at the plant had been told that the company’s board in Tokyo had stuck by its decision to stop business in Swindon in two years’ time.

The company said in a statement: “Honda of the UK manufacturing has today informed employees that plans to close its Swindon vehicle manufacturing plant, at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle, in 2021, have been confirmed.

“Following a meaningful and robust consultation process, which included contributions from collective consultation groups, the UK government and external consultants engaged by Unite, Honda has reached the conclusion that no viable alternatives to the proposed closure of the Swindon plant have been identified.

The decision to close the plant is part of Honda’s broader global strategy in response to changes to the automotive industry.”

Director of the UK branch of the company Jason Smith, said; “It is with a heavy heart that today we confirm the closure of Honda’s factory in Swindon. We understand the impact this decision has on our associates, suppliers and the wider community. We are committed to continuing to support them throughout the next phases of the consultation process.”

Reaction from the town’s MPs and other politicians were less phlegmatic.

The Honda plant is in Conservative Justin Tomlinson’s North Swindon constituency. He said: “Obviously, this is very disappointing, but perhaps not surprising news.

“And now, rightly, the task force will be doing everything it can to maximise the support for the affected workers and to seek alternative employment opportunities for the town and the surrounding areas.”

Labour’s candidate for the South Swindon constituency, Sarah Church, said: “This is really devastating news for everyone working at Honda but also for Swindon and the south west more widely. It’s a great disappointment that the hard work put in by Honda workers and the unions during the consultation has come to nothing.

“Swindon is ideally placed to be a hub for electric vehicle manufacture- we have the skills and an advantageous geographical location to be that hub.

“I hope that everyone will now pull together to ensure that the impact of the closure does as little damage as possible, and that the government will support Swindon in this.”

Director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Inititaive at Business West, Ian Larrard said: “We are very saddened to hear from Honda today of its formal intention to close its Swindon plant.

“Honda Swindon has been an integral part of the town and the region for decades and this is a significant loss for both Honda workers and the wider Honda supply chain.

“As the largest business group in the region, we will now work with focus and energy on the Government’s Honda Task Force to respond with ongoing efforts to ensure that as many staff and companies are helped in order to minimise any negative economic impact.

“We remain convinced of Swindon’s great strengths as a well-connected, resilient and business friendly town, and we have already been contacted by many companies from the region looking to help recruit from those affected from the Honda workforce. Although this is a sad day, the town should be optimistic about its future.”