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Nissan boss 'confident UK remains competitive' after Brexit talks with May

Published 14/10/2016

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the Government is increasingly using its credit rating to issue guarantees.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the Government is increasingly using its credit rating to issue guarantees.

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has said he is confident the UK will remain a "competitive place to do business", following crunch talks on Brexit with Theresa May.

The Prime Minister met Mr Ghosn in Number 10 amid concerns about the future of the car giant's plant in Sunderland after the UK leaves the European Union.

He has suggested the company will halt new investment in the factory unless it can agree a compensation deal with the Government for any adverse financial impact from the UK's decision to withdraw from the EU.

Following the talks, 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 said: "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."

Mr Ghosn was driven into Downing Street for the meeting in a black Nissan Qashqai - a model made at the Sunderland factory.

Concerns over the fate of the plant had been sparked after Mr Ghosn warned that "important decisions will not be made in the dark" earlier this year.

Keeping Nissan in the UK is regarded as vital to Mrs May's hopes for a successful Brexit, and it was understood she would use the Downing Street meeting to explore what assurances the company is seeking.

The Sunderland plant, which has been active since 1986, employs almost 7,000 people producing around 2,000 cars a day.

Nissan 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".

Following the talks, Mr Ghosn said: "Since Mrs May's appointment, we have maintained a clear dialogue with the UK Government during this challenging time.

"It was my pleasure to be here today for a positive meeting with the Prime Minister and key members of her Government and I welcome their commitment to the development of an industrial strategy for Britain.

"The Nissan factory opened in Sunderland 30 years ago and the British government have been strong supporters of our business ever since. Not just in the north of England, but also at our design centre in London, our research and development centre in Cranfield and our sales and marketing HQ in Rickmansworth.

"We have made significant investments at our factory in Sunderland over the years and today it ranks as one of the world's most successful manufacturing plants.

"Our 7,000 employees in Sunderland build 2,000 cars a day - 80% of which are exported to more than 130 countries around the world. 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 said: " Our automotive industry is a great British success story and Nissan has been at the heart of it. Over the past 30 years they have had an excellent relationship with the UK Government, a track record of investment and innovation, and their Sunderland plant is one of the most productive anywhere in the world - a testament both to their company and the skill of our workforce.

"We are now at the start of the complex negotiating process as Britain exits the EU and I have been clear that there will be challenges ahead. But I am confident we will achieve the best deal for Britain and the Government will engage closely with employers and investors as part of our work to create a global Britain.

"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.

"That's why I was pleased to have met with Mr Ghosn today to discuss our shared belief that Britain remains an outward-looking, world-leading nation in which to do business.

"We will continue to work with Nissan as we develop the environment for competitiveness of the automotive industry here in the UK to ensure its success."

Mrs May was also meeting Britain's ambassadors to the other 27 EU member states to discuss their assessment of the individual countries' attitudes to Brexit.

She was expected to set out her commitment to build strong post-Brexit relationships with each of the countries and tell the ambassadors that she intends to hold bilateral talks with each of the 27 heads of government by the time of the European Council summit in December.

Meanwhile, it was reported that half the members of the Cabinet committee which will steer the Brexit negotiations campaigned for Leave in the referendum.

An unpublished Government document showed that all six Cabinet ministers who backed Brexit will sit on the European Union Exit and Trade Committee, according to the Bloomberg newswire.

They are Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom and International Development Secretary Priti Patel.

The other members are the Prime Minister, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green, and Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin.

Downing Street said only that a full list of Cabinet committees will be published next week.

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