Nissan boss currently meeting with PM in crunch talks over Sunderland plant's future

Crunch talks to keep Nissan producing cars in Sunderland will begin today, as Prime Minister Theresa May meets with boss Carlos Ghosn.

The talks come two weeks after the car giant warned it would need “compensation” for any new export tariffs it faced in post-Brexit Britain.

Keeping Nissan in the UK is regarded as vital to Mrs May’s hopes for a successful Brexit, and it is thought that she is using Downing Street meeting to explore what assurances the company is seeking.

Arriving at Number 10 in a Sunderland-made Qashqai car, Mr Ghosn did not speak to reporters.

The Sunderland plant, which has been active since 1986, employs almost 7,000 people, and MPs have warned that the Government must do all it can to keep the plant going.

If a deal cannot be reached, the Nissan chief has indicated the company might halt its investment in Sunderland, and there are fears that the new Qashqai model might be made in a factory on the continent instead.

British car exporters could face tariffs of up to 10% if the UK fails to conclude a free trade deal with the rest of the EU and is forced to fall back on basic World Trade Organisation rules.

Speaking at the Paris Motor Show in August, Mr Ghosn said decisions on the future of the plant couldn’t be made without negotiating with Government.

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire Workers at Nissan's plant in Sunderland

Workers at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland

He said: “If I need to make an investment in the next few months and I can’t wait until the end of Brexit, then I have to make a deal with the UK Government.

“You can have commitments of compensation in case you have something negative. If there are tax barriers being established on cars, you have to have a commitment for car-makers who export to Europe that there is some kind of compensation.”

This week, North MPs warned of the dire consequences of losing Nissan.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott asked Brexit Secretary David Davis for details of the Government plans, saying: “When will the Secretary of State reassure businesses based in the UK, and particularly in my city of Sunderland, including the Nissan manufacturing plant, about the potential for tariffs to be paid on every car sold to mainland Europe, as some 80% of cars from the Nissan plant are?

“Investment has been halted at that plant, and a contract that had already been awarded has been put in abeyance while ​we wait for reassurances from the Government. When will the Government act on real people’s jobs and reassure companies?

“That is what is at stake. This is not chatter; it is real people’s jobs. When will the Government act?”

But Mr Davis was unable to provide any specifics in his reply.

He said: “We have said in terms – principally after the Japanese letter – that we are absolutely determined to make sure that we guarantee, or acquire, access for all companies in the UK to the maximum possible number of markets. That is what we are doing.”

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