Carmaker Nissan has come out with its strongest warning yet against a no-deal Brexit, in an intervention this week that mirrors concerns from Unite’s manufacturing reps.
On Thursday (October 10) Nissan Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said the imposition of 10 per cent tariffs on exports trading under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms — the default under a no-deal Brexit — could potentially render the future of its Sunderland plant unviable.
“If we are in a situation in which tomorrow we have to apply 10 per cent export duties to 70 per cent of our sales, the entire business model for Nissan Europe will be in jeopardy,” he said.
Ficchy highlighted that the production of its latest model the Nissan Juke, which starts in Sunderland next week, was inextricably linked to the EU — 70 per cent of its sales would go to the union, while 160 suppliers were also based there.
About 6,000 people are directly employed at the Nissan Sunderland plant, with an additional 24,000 in the wider supply chain.
Only last week, it was revealed that a no-deal Brexit could also throw the production of the new Qashqai model into jeopardy.
In 2016, former prime minister Theresa May offered up to £80m in state aid to convince Nissan to produce new generations of both the Qashqai and the X-Trail at the Sunderland plant. But the carmaker tore up plans for the X-Trail in February, citing Brexit as a major concern.
Last week, unnamed sources told the Financial Times that Nissan may review its decision to produce the Qashqai SUV in Sunderland if the UK crashes out of the EU, although the carmaker said publicly its plans “had not changed”.
Nissan’s latest intervention comes as Unite manufacturing reps, including those in the auto industry, met with cabinet minister Michael Gove a second time on Thursday (October 10) to warn him about the dangers to their jobs and communities in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In a message to Gove ahead of the meeting, Unite deputy convenor for Nissan Craig McDonald said, “As far as I’m concerned, no deal must be taken off the table because you’re going to affect 40,000 jobs in the north east and across the UK. We need frictionless borders and no tariffs — end of story.”
Responding to Nissan’s latest warning, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the UK government would be “reckless to dismiss this worrying no-deal Brexit warning” from the carmaker.
“Nissan is responsible for close to 30 per cent of all UK vehicle production and its plant in Sunderland sustains tens of thousands of jobs both directly and in the wider supply chain,” he said.
“A no deal Brexit would not only torpedo the frictionless just-in-time supply chains that Nissan relies on, but the resulting World Trade Organisation rules would impose a ten per cent tariff on the sale of finished vehicles into Europe, affecting the car industry and wider UK manufacturing,” he added.
Turner pointed out that however workers voted in the initial 2016 Brexit referendum, he said, “they did not vote to sacrifice their jobs. They are holding their breath as the government plays no deal Brexit poker with their livelihoods and their hopes for the future”.
“Prime minister Johnson should have taken time after his meeting with the Irish Taoiseach, that took place just miles from Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port factory and Airbus’ Broughton facility, to explain to workers there why he is willing to sacrifice their livelihoods and the future of their communities on the altar of a no deal Brexit.”