Business Secretary says UK has told Nissan it would seek tariff-free access to EU markets for the motor industry as part of Brexit talks.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said that within a statement of government objectives, the UK has told Nissan it wants tariff-free trading for the motoring industry, which had helped persuade Nissan to boost its investment in the UK, securing thousands of jobs.
Ministers have been under pressure to clarify the “support and assurances” Nissan said it received.
Labour said Nissan had been told more about the Brexit strategy than MPs had.
The government are receiving calls from opposition parties, to clarify in parliament what it wants to achieve from its Brexit talks before they formally begin.
The Japanese company’s commitment to Britain’s biggest car plant had been in doubt following the referendum on EU membership, but it has now confirmed the major investment in its Sunderland site, and will build its next-generation Qashqai and add production of the new X-Trail model at Britain’s biggest car plant. The investment will secure more than 7,000 jobs and 28,000 more in the supply chain.
Speculation began earlier this week, after Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said the company’s decision was driven by Government “support and assurances”.
Mr Clark denies there has been any compensation deal, which would not be possible under World Trade Organisation rules if Britain relinquishes membership of the single market.
He said: “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 wrote a letter to Mr Ghosn in which he set out four key points regarding the Government’s approach – three about the car industry generally and the fourth about Brexit.
He said the 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 how the Government was 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”.
Labour has called for the letter to be released, and the Nissan issue is expected to raised in parliament today (Monday 31 October).
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