A Sunderland MP has penned an open letter outlining her fears for the future of Sunderland’s Nissan plant if the UK leaves the European Single Market.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott was one of 24 North East Labour MPs who wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to make public any Brexit ‘guarantees’ given to the car giant.
Nissan announced earlier this year that it is to build two new models - a third generation Qashqai and a new X-Trail - on Wearside.
But chief executive Carlos Ghosn said last week the firm would review the long-term future of the Sunderland plant - which employs more than 6,000 people - once the final outcome of Brexit negotiations becomes clear.
The Prime Minister had indicated the UK is likely to leave the Single Market and EU customs union in a so-called ‘hard’ Brexit.
Now Julie Elliott has put pen to paper to explain her reasons for backing calls for the Prime Minister to think again...
We didn’t vote for a Brexit that would hurt our businesses, damage our exports, and put jobs at risk.Julie Elliott MP
“When we voted to leave the European Union back in June, one of the things that really kept me up at night was the thought of what might happen to Nissan’s plant.
“They had said during the campaign that being part of the European Union was better for their business, and that leaving would make it harder to trade with Europe. That could have meant less investment and fewer jobs here in Sunderland.
“With 6,700 people directly employed by the plant, any damage to Nissan would be devastating to our local economy.
“So I was very encouraged in October, when it turned out that the Government had given Nissan guarantees that would lead to them not just committing to their future in Sunderland, but building new models here too.
“But whatever promises the Government gave Nissan, it now seems that they were barely worth the paper they were written on, because just last week, Nissan’s boss said the company might have to “re-evaluate” their investment in the UK once the details of the Brexit deal Theresa May negotiates becomes clear.
“It’s not hard to see what caused this potential change of heart.
“It was the Prime Minister’s big Brexit speech on Tuesday, where she said Britain would no longer be part of the Single Market after we leave the EU.
“Despite what some people think, it’s perfectly possible to be outside of the EU but still in the Single Market – Norway and Iceland manage it, for example. It gives businesses based in the UK total freedom to sell their products to Europe, without any barriers whatsoever.
“In the Single Market, selling a Nissan in Spain or Slovenia is as easy as selling it in Sunderland. No alternative model could be as good.
“Still, this wasn’t the most worrying thing in Theresa May’s speech. She raised the prospect that we could quit the EU without any deal at all.
“That would be a nightmare for Sunderland. Every single British car sold in Europe would have a 10% tax slapped on it. Our products would be priced out of the European market.
“And when fewer people in Spain and Slovenia buy Nissans, that means fewer jobs in Sunderland.
“It isn’t just Nissan either – the boss of Hitachi, which employs hundreds of people at its Newton Aycliffe site, said he thought they could face problems exporting once Britain leaves the EU.
“Sunderland voted to leave the EU, and I will abide by that decision.
“But we didn’t vote for a Brexit that would hurt our businesses, damage our exports, and put jobs at risk.
“That’s why I, along with 23 other Labour MPs from the North East, have written to Theresa May calling on her to reconsider, keep Britain in the Single Market, and deliver a Brexit that protects jobs in Sunderland and across our region.”