‘Hugely patronising’ - Sunderland MP slams Apprentice star Lord Sugar’s Brexit claim

A claim by The Apprentice star Lord Sugar that Nissan would follow Honda in closing its UK plant after Brexit - and that Sunderland voters would be responsible - has been slammed as ‘hugely patronising’ and ‘entirely unnecessary’ by a Sunderland MP.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 8:42 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 8:47 am
Sharon Hodgson

The former Amstrad boss took to social media site Twitter after Honda confirmed it was to close its Swindon factory when production of its current model ends.

“Honda to leave UK with a potential loss of 3500 jobs in 2022,” he wrote.

“It won’t be long for Nissan to make same decision. Sunderland you tipped the scales in 2016 vote and now you will pay with mass unemployment in your area not just Nissan factory but all the peripheral suppliers.”

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His words were condemned by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, whose constituency covers Nissan’s city plant: “Comments such as these are hugely patronising towards my constituents and entirely unnecessary,” she said.

“However people voted in the referendum of 2016, they voted in good faith and expected the Government to get a good deal.

“Thousands of families across the country will be hugely worried by Honda’s decision, and Brexit uncertainty more widely.

Sharon Hodgson

“Now is not the time for people to say ‘I told you so’.”

Mrs Hodgson said Theresa May needed to rule out leaving the EU without a deal and that she had written to the Prime Minister two weeks ago, after Nissan announced that it would not be building a new X-Trail on Wearside - but had not received a reply.

The letter also asked the Prime Minister to provide further assurances regarding the automotive industry and Brexit more widely.

“I know that many people who work in the automotive industry or its extensive supply chain will be yet further concerned by the news that Honda will be closing down its factory in Swindon, particularly those who will be directly affected,” said Mrs Hodgson.

Lord Sugar

“The UK automotive industry provides thousands of jobs around our country, and it is now facing challenges on a number of fronts that need urgently addressing by this Conservative Government.

“Brexit uncertainty is undeniably playing a key role. There are just 38 days to go until we are due to leave the EU, and there is still zero clarification on what trading arrangements will be in place the day after we have left.

“Almost two weeks ago I wrote directly to the Prime Minister regarding my urgent concerns around Nissan’s decision to build the new X-Trail in Japan rather than in Washington as originally planned, I am yet to receive a reply.

“Theresa May must stop pandering to the hard right in her Party, rule out a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit and drop her red lines in order to reach a compromise.”

A general view of the Honda plant in Swindon, which the company has confirmed will close in 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs.

A Sunderland Echo poll asked readers if they agree with his comment ‘that sunderland will pay’ for Brexit with ‘mass unemployment’.

It saw 56% of 785 voters agree, with 44% disagreed.

A number of North East car parts manufacturers - including Washington-based Signal Plastics and Unipres - produce components for Honda.

Paul Butler, CEO of industry cluster the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “Honda’s announcement that it is set to close its UK manufacturing plant in 2021 is a blow for the UK automotive sector.

“The company cites the unprecedented changes affecting the sector and the need to restructure its global operations and focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes.

“The Swindon facility is the fourth largest producer in the UK, manufacturing around 150,000 Civic Hatchback and Type R models vehicles per annum.

A sign outside the Honda plant in Swindon

“The closure will come at a natural point, a model changeover. The decision will also affect its operations in Turkey too, which will cease production of the Civic Sedan model; and whilst Honda stated it plans to continue its business operations in Turkey it does not confirm whether this includes its manufacturing operations – it may simply be its sales operations for automobiles and motorcycles.

“It is clear these are turbulent times for the automotive sector. Technological advancements, environmental issues and increasing trade tensions are continuing to effect market conditions. We must remember the automotive sector is a truly global sector and all manufacturers are faced with challenging business decisions.

“We were set up to support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the sector in the region. Much of our work has been focused on regional competitiveness and we are already looking at the new supply chain opportunities and how the region can capitalise on its emerging strengths in power electronics, electric motors and battery technology.”

Workers at Nissan
Nissan plant