Nissan jobs are 'hanging by a thread' over Brexit, union warns

Investment decisions at Nissan which could affect thousands of North East jobs are “hanging by a thread” as the UK car industry waits for the outcome of Brexit negotiations, a report is warning.

The Unite union said hundreds of thousands of automotive and manufacturing jobs would be at risk unless the Government secures tariff-free access to the European single market.

A study by the union said key investment decisions on 15 new models made in the UK – including a number of new Nissan models – were due over the next five years.

Nissan employs nearly 7,000 people at its Sunderland plant with a further 20,000 in the supply chain, while an automotive park being planned close to the plant could further boost job numbers in that sector.

Last month Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn called for guarantees from the Government on future trade, including compensation in case tax barriers are raised as a result of the UK leaving the European Union.

The company’s Sunderland factory has to beat other plans in the Nissan-Renault alliance to win the production of each new model and increased tariffs on exports would seriously damage its competitiveness with other factories in Europe.

The Unite report said decision on where to make the next generation of Nissan Qashqai model would be made in 2020 and the Infinity Q30 in 2021.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The UK car industry is the most productive in the EU. Yet the uncertainty of Brexit could seriously compromise the continued resurgence of this world class industry.

“Dozens of decisions, including new models to UK plants, must be made in the coming months. These crucial investment decisions will determine the future of the UK’s car industry. Ministers’ mixed signals on tariff-free access to the single market, which consumes 80% of the cars we produce, could leave our world class industry hanging by a thread.

“While many workers voted to leave the EU, they didn’t do so to be out of work or see their living standards suffer and rights at work torn up through a ‘Hard Brexit’.

“The Government’s commitment to an industrial strategy is welcome, but it will not get out of the starting blocks unless our manufacturing sector receives tariff-free access to the single market and the assistance and commitments it needs to invest in a Brexit Britain.”

The report commissioned by Unite says that suggestions by some Ministers to revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs of 10% on exports and 4% on imports would damage a resurgent UK car industry and well-paying manufacturing jobs.

Report author David Bailey, a professor of industry at Aston University, said: “Automotive and engine assemblers like General Motors, BMW and Ford all import sizable inflows of components to the UK from other European Union operations.

“Anything which puts these trading relationships at risk, whether currency risk or higher transaction costs from having to deal with EU and UK regulations separately, reduce the likelihood of further investment.”

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “With the automotive sector being such a major part of the business community in the North East the future of the car-making is of crucial importance to our economy and employment prospects.

“As we have done since the end of June, we urge the Government to ensure the brightest possible future for our members and the region.”

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “The evidence released by Unite the Union shows exactly why we need to have a concrete plan from Theresa May and her Brexiteer Secretaries of State, especially on the single market, as this could put our vital automotive industry, both here in the North East and across the country, in jeopardy.

“We cannot allow the Government to walk us off the cliff edge without giving us a clear Brexit plan that protects our economy, our industries and people’s jobs and livelihoods.

“Car manufacturing plants, such as Nissan in Sunderland, have already warned about their futures in post-Brexit Britain and this further evidence shows the Government needs to be doing much more to ensure the production of cars here in the UK remains, rather than leaves to go abroad, and we don’t lose these vital and high-quality jobs that come with the levels of investment from automotive companies.”

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