Nissan scraps plan to build new model in Britain

Jason Cook

"Support and assurances" from the United Kingdom government persuaded Nissan to continue investing in the site, the company said in October 2016.

Carmaker Nissan has scrapped plans to build its new X-Trail SUV in Britain and will produce it exclusively in Japan, warning two months before Brexit that uncertainty over Britain's departure was making it harder to plan for the future.

The decision was quickly seized upon by anti-Brexit MPs and campaigners, and places further pressure on May as she seeks to salvage her withdrawal agreement with the European Union and pass it through parliament. It has been active since 1986 and is Britain's largest vehicle factory, making it one of the region's key employers.

Steve Turner, Unite's assistant general secretary for manufacturing, said: "It is beyond disappointing that our members are hearing about their futures and the holding back of planned investments in Sunderland through media reports and not directly from the company".

Nissan said the decision to build the SUV's in Japan would reduce investment costs in the early stages of the project.

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The company had said in 2016 that it would produce the new X-Trail model at its Sunderland factory after getting reassurances from the government over Brexit - an intervention hailed by Prime Minister Theresa May as a "vote of confidence" in British business after voters backed leaving the EU.

And Nissan is part-owned by France's Renault, which could move production to France in future to avoid any post-Brexit EU tariffs.

According to Sky News, Nissan's decision is not expected to have a major impact on jobs.

It sparked questions over whether a deal between the carmaker and the government had been struck, although ministers insisted that no "financial compensation" had been offered.

Work on the Qashqai - which makes up the majority of Nissan Sunderland's work - is not expected to be affected.

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Last year, the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage sought to ease concerns over a post-Brexit climate, insisting the vehicle giant is "not going anywhere" after the United Kingdom divorces from the EU.

Earlier this month American auto manufacturer Ford confirmed almost 400 jobs would be lost at its engine manufacturing plant in Bridgend.

"This represents a serious blow to the communities that depend on the jobs Nissan creates and supports", Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party's Brexit spokesman, wrote on Twitter.

Japanese firm Honda also announced six non-production days in April under contingency plans to mitigate the risk of disruption to production at its Swindon factory after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

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"These rumours are disturbing and will cause the workforce to have a very anxious weekend even though production of the X-Trail would have necessitated additional jobs on site", he said.

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