Greg Clark reveals Government assurances to secure Nissan investment
The Business Secretary has revealed the assurances the Government offered Nissan to convince the car manufacturer to commit to building a new model of vehicle in the UK.
Greg Clark spelt out for the first time the contents of a letter he sent to the Japanese company, including that the Government wanted to get a tariff-free deal with the European Union after Brexit.
Labour has called on him to publish the letter.
Nissan confirmed on Thursday that it would build the next generation of Qashqai vehicles in Sunderland – an announcement that Theresa May hailed as a “vote of confidence” in Britain’s economy.
It led to questions about what promises had been made by ministers in order to win the investment.
Mr Clark today repeated that no financial guarantees had been made.
He revealed that the Government’s stance on Brexit had been one of the key features of the negotiations.
“[We told Nissan] our objective would be to ensure we have continued access to the markets in Europe and vice versa without tariffs and bureaucratic impediments, and that is how we will approach those negotiations,” Mr Clark told the Andrew Marr Show.
He also confirmed that he had issued a letter laying out the Government’s assurances, and revealed the contents of that message.
There were four central points, he said. They were: funding for training and skills; the regeneration of areas near the Sunderland plant to support small and medium-sized firms in Nissan’s supply chain; a continued commitment that the UK would be at the “leading edge of research and development”; and the goals of the Brexit negotiation.
“They were the assurances that gave the confidence, I’m delighted to say, that allowed these jobs to be safeguarded and enhanced,” he said.
“A lot of these apply to the industry generally. Of course, if you think about an industrial strategy we’re developing, you need to build on your strengths; the automotive sector is one of our great strengths in this country, so of course part of our strategy – how could it be otherwise? – is to keep it.”
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer told ITV that MPs should have been informed of the contents of the letter – and the Government’s negotiating strategy – first.
“What’s extraordinary is, here we are, quarter past ten on a Sunday morning, and we’re learning more about the Government’s plan than they’ve ever disclosed to Parliament,” he said on Peston on Sunday.
“A plan is emerging – a bit chaotic and bit-by-bit but it is emerging – and Nissan’s been told more about it than we have in Parliament. So the Government’s got to come clean, I think, this week and put the terms before Parliament. Because to learn of this in response to an interview this morning is the wrong way to prepare for these negotiations.”
Shadow Business Minister Chi Onwurah later said Mr Clark should publish the letter in full.