Tyne & Wear

Brexit: Nissan boss meets PM over Sunderland plant fears

Carlos Ghosn leaving Downing Street Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Ghosn said he wanted the "high-performing" Sunderland plant to remain competitive

The boss of Japanese car giant Nissan says he is "confident" the government will keep the UK a competitive place to do business after it leaves the EU.

Chief executive Carlos Ghosn met prime minister Theresa May earlier amid fears over the future of its production plant in Sunderland.

He has hinted investment at Sunderland could cease unless compensation is paid for any adverse impact after Brexit.

The Sunderland plant, which opened in 1986, employs almost 7,000 people.

Mr Ghosn arrived at Downing Street in a black Qashqai, a model made in Sunderland.

After the meeting, which lasted about an hour, Mr Ghosn said: "We want to ensure that this high-performing, high-employment factory remains competitive globally and continues to deliver for our business and for Britain.

"Following our productive meeting, I am confident the government will continue to ensure the UK remains a competitive place to do business. I look forward to continued positive collaboration between Nissan and the UK Government."

Mrs May added: "This government is committed to creating and supporting the right conditions for the automotive industry to go from strength to strength in the UK, now and into the future."

The Sunderland factory, opened by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, produces about 500,000 Juke, Qashqai and Leaf vehicles a year - a third of the UK's total car manufacturing.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Almost 7,000 people are employed at Nissan's Sunderland plant, which opened in 1986

Speaking at the Paris Motor Show in August, Mr Ghosn said that "important investment decisions will not be made in the dark".

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."

Earlier, Nissan said Friday's meeting sought to provide "an aligned way forward" for the company and the UK Government.

Nissan, which is due to decide early next year on where to build its next Qashqai sport utility vehicle, is part-owned by French manufacturer Renault, raising concerns that production could be moved to France to avoid any tariffs which could be introduced on exports to the EU if the UK leaves the single market in a so-called "hard Brexit".

In the 23 June referendum, the people of Sunderland voted to leave the European Union, with 61% backing the Leave campaign. Across the whole of the UK, 52% voted to leave the EU.

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