The Government’s preferred Brexit deal will “protect jobs and livelihoods” in the North East and support major manufacturers such as Nissan, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.
The cabinet came to the region on Monday for an away day for a special meeting to tie in with the Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle and Gateshead.
Speaking at the Reece Group factory, in Scotswood Road, the PM confirmed up to £780m would be invested in the East Coast Mainline from 2019 to improve transport in the region.
She added that the Brexit deal was about “recognising the importance” of the integrated supply chains with the European Union and ensuring “frictionless movement across the border” for trade.
But the PM’s comments follow reports that Japanese car giant Nissan is freezing long-term investment in the UK – including its Sunderland plant – until there is more clarity on trade relations post-Brexit.
When asked for assurances about future jobs and investment in Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside, the PM said the deal, negotiations and plan the Government is putting forward is about “protecting jobs and livelihoods in areas such as this.”
“It’s about recognising the importance to companies like Nissan of the integrated supply chains with the European Union and ensuring that means frictionless movement across the border,” she said.
“That’s what we have proposed with our free trade area and combined with the facilitated customs arrangement so we put a plan forward that actually recognises the importance of that frictionless trade to companies exactly like Nissan.
“Obviously, more widely what we’re doing with our industrial strategy is ensuring that we get the infrastructure and skills investment right so that we can really see places benefitting from the advantages they have and the expertise they have in an area to really grow industries in this country.”
Around £42million of Government funding has been earmarked for International Advanced Manufacturing Park, north of Nissan, which aims to boost the region’s manufacturing sector and create 7,000 jobs.
On any future talks with Nissan, the PMr added: “The business department is always in regular contact with key employers around the country.
“It’s precisely by doing that, that we’re able to listen to and hear what employers are saying, what manufacturers are saying and what others are saying and obviously evolve Government policy in the light of that.
“I had Japanese investors in the UK to a round table in Downing Street to hear directly from them about their interests here in the UK and we have a great relationship with Japanese companies who have invested over the years here in the UK and we want that to continue.”
The PM also confirmed the £600m North of Tyne Devolution deal for Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside would not be resolved before Parliament’s summer break.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service