Nissan deal followed Britain's pledge to fight for tariff-free EU trade

Nissan confirmed a major investment in its English site after assurances the British government was committed to securing continued tariff-free access to EU markets, the UK’s business secretary has said.

The Japanese manufacturer will build its next-generation Qashqai and add production of the new X-Trail model at Britain’s biggest car plant in Sunderland, which will secure more than 7,000 jobs and 28,000 more in the supply chain.

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn sparked speculation earlier this week after he said the company’s decision was driven by government “support and assurances”.

It was the word “support” that had proved controversial, as the carmaker had threatened to put the brakes on new UK-built models following the EU referendum without assurances of compensation for any new trade tariffs.

But business secretary Greg Clark denied there had been any compensation deal, which would not be possible under World Trade Organisation rules if Britain relinquishes membership of the single market.

He said: “What I said was that our objective would be to ensure that we would have continued access to the markets in Europe – and vice versa – without tariffs and without bureaucratic impediments and that is how we will approach those negotiations.

“For the continental European car manufacturers, they export a lot to us, we export a lot to them, components go backwards and forwards.

“If you conduct the negotiations in a serious, constructive and civilised way there is a lot in common that we can establish.

“I was able to reassure Nissan – and other manufacturers – that that is the way we are going to approach it.”

Speaking about a letter he wrote to Mr Ghosn in which he set out the British government’s approach, he said there were four key points, three about the car industry generally and the fourth about Brexit.

  • He said the British government was committed to have competitive and independently-assessed funds available to all companies for skills and training.
  • He also said it was committed to regenerating UK sites for small and medium-sized businesses who supply parts for carmakers and who have been based overseas by “bringing them home”.
  • The third point was about “the future” and British authorities were committed to “being at the leading edge” of research and development in the industry.
  • And the fourth point was to “be clear about what we want in negotiations to find that common ground”.

He also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “Whatever happens that we have through our industrial strategy that we make a commitment to keep the UK industry competitive.”

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