College boss urges Government to end Brexit uncertainty after Nissan drops plan to build X-Trail in Sunderland

Paul Butler
Paul Butler
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The woman responsible for the hi-tech academy training the North East automotive engineers of the future has urged the Government to give businesses a clear lead on Brexit after Nissan scrapped plans to build a new X-Trail in Sunderland.

The firm announced confirmed reports on Saturday that it had dropped the plan - originally announced in 2016.

Judith Doyle

Judith Doyle

Instead, the new model will be built in Japan.

Judith Doyle is principal and CEO of Gateshead College, which worked with Nissan to set up the Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation next to the car giant's Sunderland plant.

Speaking at a North East England Chamber of Commerce event at the Stadium of Light, she said: "It is concerning because of the importance Nissan has to the region. It employs so many people."

In a letter to staff, Nissan chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said uncertainty over the UK's relationship with the EU after Brexit was not helping companies with long-term planning.
Judith Doyle said the Government needed to let businesses know where they stood.

Coun Graeme Miller

Coun Graeme Miller

"From a Brexit perspective, the one thing it highlights is the uncertainty . North East business leaders have been saying 'We need clarity, we need some certainty.'

"The closer we get to the end of March, the more that seems further and further away."

Paul Butler, CEO of industry cluster The North East Automotive Alliance, said: "Clearly it is disappointing news.

"However, the world is a very different place than it was in October 2016. We’ve seen an accelerated move towards new technologies and powertrains as a result of market demands and changing legislation.

"The decision to move production of the X-Trail back to Japan is disappointing but based on sound business decisions to optimise their investments in new technologies and powertrain to support the next generation vehicles in Sunderland.

"The plant will still remain the largest car plant in the UK by some margin, thanks to the highly successful new LEAF, Juke and Qashqai models."

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Graeme Miller said: "While this decision is not expected to have an immediate impact on jobs at Nissan, anything that affects longer term investment in the plant is obviously a cause for concern.

"Although Nissan says it has taken the move to consolidate and produce the X-Trail in Japan for business reasons, it has also pointed to the continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU as not being helpful.

"Nissan is the UK’s biggest car plant, employing 7,000 people, with a further 30,000 jobs in its UK supply chain and 4,000 in its UK dealer network, taking the total number of British jobs supported by Nissan to more than 40,000.

"So it is imperative that the Government achieves a good Brexit deal for the country which will help secure the future of Nissan and the rest of the UK automotive industry.

"Nissan is not the only car manufacturer or major multinational to be reconsidering its investment in the UK in the face of continued uncertainty around Brexit. Over the last few weeks we have seen similar moves from a string of car makers and large businesses, especially with regard to continued free movement of components within the same industries.

"That is why we will be seeking assurances from the Government that it will do everything in its power to secure the future of Nissan and rest of the UK automotive industry."