DEPUTY Prime Minster Nick Clegg revealed Nissan could slash investment in its flagship Sunderland car factory if Britain leaves the European Union.
Mr Clegg said the Japanese car giant had warned that it would review its investment plans if Britain walks away from Europe.
And he revealed Nissan executives had said Britain’s membership of the EU was a key factor in its decision to build the all-electric Leaf hatchback in Sunderland.
Nissan and its French partner Renault have several other manufacturing sites in Europe, but Sunderland is the most productive plant in the EU.
Ministers hailed Nissan’s decision to build the Leaf in the UK as hugely signifi- cant.
As well as the new car, Nissan also gave the go-ahead to build a battery factory, despite intense lobbying from European politicians keen to see it built abroad.
The £420million project will create 560 jobs at the Wearside plant and a further 1,500 at supply companies across the North East.
Nissan Sunderland builds more cars than the whole of Italy and several new models, including a replacement for the best-selling Qashqai, are pencilled in over the next couple of years and has been chosen to build a new small hatchback, the Infiniti.
Mr Clegg has pointed to Nissan’s decision to build “low emission cars” in Sunderland as evidence of the firm’s “faith in the North East”, but he added: “By the way, they are also saying they wouldn’t have done so if they felt the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union.”
An aide to the Liberal Democrat leader acknowledged Nissan had made no statement about its intent- ions.
In January, the Prime Minister pledged an “in-out” EU referendum, if he wins the next general election, following negotiations on a new settlement with Brussels.