'Devastating news' and 'hugely disappointing' - how Sunderland MPs have reacted to news that Infiniti production will end at Nissan

MPs Bridget Phillipson, left, and Sharon Hodgson.
MPs Bridget Phillipson, left, and Sharon Hodgson.
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A Sunderland MP has vowed to fight for around 250 employees working on Nissan's Infiniti brand after the 'hugely disappointing' news production on the models in Wearside will end.

The car manufacturing giant announced today it is to stop producing its Infiniti vehicles in Sunderland this year as part of a withdrawal from Western Europe by early 2020.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson today vowed to fight for the workers and continue to raise concerns over the impact of Brexit and diesel vehicle issues on car manufacturing in the city and the UK as a whole.

She said: ’Any announcement such as this is hugely disappointing.

"I have spoken to Nissan about these changes, and understand that they are a result of poor sales throughout Western Europe of the Infinity models which struggle to compete with other premium cars in Europe.

"I was assured that this announcement is not a reflection on the performance of the plant, nor related to the recent X-Trail decision.

The Nissan plant in Washington.

The Nissan plant in Washington.

"Currently 250 employees work on the Infiniti models but Nissan have confirmed that efforts will be made to ensure any job losses are kept to an absolute minimum and I will be liaising with the unions in order to support where possible and if required."

It comes after Nissan's announcement last month that the new X-Trail model will not be built in Sunderland, citing "business reasons" affected by rules on diesel engines and reduced sales.

Concerns have also been mounting over the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the operation in Sunderland, which is the UK's biggest car manufacturing plant.

Mrs Hodgson said; "These are uncertain times for the automotive industry and I will continue to raise the concerns I have around Brexit and the move away from diesel with the Government.’’

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, has also reacted to the announcement - and has said that the news is "devastating" for her constituents and the wider North East region.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central.

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central.

The MP, a leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign, has also made further calls to "put Brexit back to the people" so there can be a "real say" on the cost of leaving the EU.

She said: "Today’s announcement by Nissan is devastating news for my constituents in and people across the North East where thousands of families, local suppliers, shops and small businesses rely on the Nissan plant for their livelihoods.

“The UK car industry is obviously facing a number of challenges, including the phasing out of diesel engines and move to electric vehicles.

“But Nissan came to Sunderland in the 1980s, at a time when the city’s traditional manufacturing like shipbuilding was in decline.

"It was Margaret Thatcher’s government which reassured Nissan that the UK’s future lay inside the EU and single market. But my voters know that Brexit is unpicking that promise.

“Now we know the real costs of leaving the EU, we need a real say. Now that we know new facts, we need a new vote. It’s time to put Brexit back to the people.”

MP for Sunderland Central Julie Elliott posted her reaction to the announcement on social media.

In it, she said the reasons for ending the production are "understandable" - but that the negative impact on those who work at the plant and their families "cannot be underestimated".

She continued: "My concern is for securing the jobs of the 250 people who currently work on this model.

"Moving forward, securing the future of the plant is dependent on getting the right Brexit deal, which is not the deal the Prime Minister has returned to Parliament with today."