Nissan ‘confident’ on UK investments after talks

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn leaves Downing Street on Friday after talks with Theresa May © Reuters

The boss of Nissan has said he is “confident” the UK government will provide conditions allowing the company to invest in the UK after meeting with Theresa May, raising hopes that the prime minister may have left the door open to guarantee the company tariff-free access to the EU after a Brexit.

Carlos Ghosn met the prime minister at Downing Street on Friday afternoon for talks about the future of Nissan’s Sunderland plant, the UK’s largest car factory.

After the meeting, he said: “Following our productive meeting, I am confident the government will continue to ensure the UK remains a competitive place to do business.”

He previously said the company would not invest more in the UK unless it received assurances from the government that it would be compensated for any tariffs that it may face in the event of a “hard” Brexit.

Mr Ghosn added: “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.”

Nissan faces a decision early next year whether to build the next version of its Qashqai SUV at the site, or move production to Europe.

The plant exports 76 per cent of its cars to the EU, and has been described by Mr Ghosn in the past as a “European plant based in the UK”.

Ministers are looking at whether certain industries with complex supply chains might be given a carve out and remain in the customs union — if Britain leaves it.

Among options being discussed is the idea of setting up bonded warehouses technically within the customs union for the industries concerned, likely to include automotive and aerospace.

Following our productive meeting, I am confident the government will continue to ensure the UK remains a competitive place to do business

In a statement released after the meeting, Theresa 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.

“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.”

If the government agrees to offer compensation for tariffs, other carmakers in the UK are likely to demand similar terms.

Honda, Toyota and Vauxhall all operate plants in the UK that are heavily reliant on exports to the EU, while Ford and BMW make engines that are assembled into vehicles in continental plants.

The car industry in the UK supports 800,000 jobs, including 169,000 manufacturing roles at plants and in the supply chain.

Some 80 per cent of the cars made in the UK are exported.

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