The Government must listen to companies if the North East economy is not to suffer as a result of Brexit, says the region’s top business organisation.
Uncertainty over what form the Brexit deal will take hit the headlines last week, when Nissan global boss Carlos Ghosn announced the firm was holding off on further investment in its Sunderland plant and would need guarantees of compensation if it lost out as a result.
For the good of the North East economy we need the Government to listen to businesses as it develops its negotiating position.Jonathan Walker
North East of England Chamber of Commerce head of policy Jonathan Walker said it was understandable the car giant was concerned about what form the final Brexit deal would take.
“There are a great number of reasons for Nissan to continue to invest in the Sunderland plant including the local management team, the workforce and excellent supply chain in North East England,” he said.
“However, anyone making a long-term investment decision will want certainty over trading conditions and the tax framework.
“Now that a timetable for Brexit is emerging, for the good of the North East economy we need the Government to listen to businesses as it develops its negotiating position.”
Prime Minister Theresa May laid out a timetable for the UK to leave the EU in her speech to the Tory Party conference at the weekend.
It was light on the details of what any final deal might look like- but suggested the Government would prioritise control over immigration rather than continued access to the European Single Market.
One senior North East MP said the Government was ‘scrabbling around in the dark’ as it tried to prepare for Brexit.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright is a shadow business minister: “They don’t know what the negotiations are going to look like and that is a huge concern when you are trying to bring investment to the North East,” he said.
“Businesses don’t like uncertainty and this is the biggest bit of uncertainty we’ve seen in my lifetime.”
The PM’s speech did confirm that the Government would trigger Article 50 - the formal announcement of notice to leave the EU - in the New Year.
“On the one hand, it provides a timetable - Article 50 in Spring 2017 and we come out in spring 2019 - that gives us greater clarity than has happened in the past,” said Mr Wright.
“But it has never been more true that the devil is really in the detail and we are no further forward on that.”
Nissan’s reluctance to commit to further investment was understandable: “It is a perfectly rational business decision to say ‘Because of the huge uncertainty, we are going to hold off on investment’ and that is the detriment of the North East economy, it really is.”