Nissan investment secured by Brexit pledge to avoid trade tariffs, says minister
NISSAN agreed to pour new investment into its Sunderland plant after receiving assurances the Government was committed to securing continued tariff-free access to EU markets, Business Secretary Greg Clark has said.
Mr Clark said he was able to assure the Japanese car giant, which employs 7,000 people in the North-East, that they would be seeking a “constructive and civilised dialogue” with the other 27 member states on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Ministers have been under pressure to explain what deal the company was given after chief executive Carlos Ghosn announced it was to build two new models in Sunderland after receiving “support and assurances” from the Government.
Appearing on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Clark 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.”
Mr Clark – who acknowledged World Trade Organisation rules meant the Government could not offer to compensate Nissan if tariffs were imposed – confirmed he had set out the Government’s approach in a letter to Mr Ghosn.
It included commitments to continue to make funds available for skills and training, to “bring home” elements of the supply chain which had migrated overseas, to support research and development, and to keep the UK car industry competitive.
Mr Ghosn said on Wednesday that Nissan will built its new Qashqai and X-Trail vehicles at Sunderland, safeguarding thousands of jobs at the plant and in the supply chain.
For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the Government still needed to disclose the terms of any deal struck with Nissan.
He said he intended to seek an urgent question in the Commons on Monday to try and compel ministers to reveal any guarantees they may have given to the car manufacturer.
“We need to know and I’m going to try and raise this in Parliament because something has been said.
“It’s good Nissan are investing, of course it’s good, but there are other businesses up and down the country of every size and every sort that need (reassurance).”