A group of North East Labour MPs have written to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to make public any Brexit 'guarantees' given to Nissan.
The 24 MPs have sent a letter to the PM raising concerns over Government plans to withdraw the UK from the European Union's single market and customs union, saying her Brexit plans will have a "damaging" impact on manufacturing in the region.
Last week, Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the Japanese car giants - which employs more than 6,000 workers at its Wearside plant - will review the competitiveness of its operation in Sunderland once the final outcome of Brexit negotiations becomes clear. The company announced in October that new versions of its Qashqai and X-Trail would be produced in the city.
The MPs have written to Mrs May asking specific questions about the impact of the Government’s plan on auto manufacturing in the North East.
The letter, organised by the Open Britain campaign, has been signed by MPs, including Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central), Sharon Hodgson (Washington & Sunderland West), Bridget Phillipson, (Houghton & Sunderland South), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Grahame Morris (Easington) and Iain Wright (Hartlepool).
In the letter, the MPs say that while they do not oppose British exit from the EU, the PM has “no mandate” for a hard Brexit that damages manufacturers by pulling the UK out of the single market and customs union.
They also say that no free trade agreement can replicate the benefits of our current trading relationship with the EU, and that the PM’s threat to leave the EU without any trade deal being agreed at all will lead to manufacturers feeling “shivers down their spine”, as every British car exported to the EU will face a 10 per cent tariff.
The MPs also ask Mrs May to do the following:
* Guarantee that no jobs will be lost as a result of hard Brexit.
* Make public the guarantees given to Nissan by the Government; admit that no free trade agreement with the EU can match the benefits of being in the single market and customs union.
* Reveal the Government’s rationale for ignoring business advice.
* Reveal if there is any cost, in jobs and growth, that would lead the Government to reconsider its plan.
* Accept that leaving the customs union will lead to businesses facing costly rules of origin checks.
* Reveal which sectors of British industry will be prioritised in specific customs deals with the EU
* Rule out a Brexit with no deal at all, which would slap 10 per cent tariffs on UK car exports; and explain which future trade deals will boost which UK manufacturing sectors.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said: "Theresa May has decided to follow a hard Brexit and as a result long-term investment in the North East is at risk.
"The Government’s greatest priority in the Brexit negotiations should be protecting jobs, like the many thousands employed by Nissan and its supply chain in the North East. Outside the single market and customs union, jobs will be insecure as there will be new trade barriers between us and our largest trading partner – the EU.
"There is no mandate for this from voters. It is the Prime Minister’s choice and working people will pay the price.
"If a hard Brexit does lead to people being laid off in Sunderland and elsewhere, the Prime Minister must swallow her pride, change course, and keep Britain in the single market and customs union."
THE FULL LETTER TO THERESA MAY
Dear Prime Minister,
Following your decision to withdraw the United Kingdom from the EU single market and customs union, the Chief Executive of Nissan has said that this huge UK employer will now have to “re-evaluate” their UK investments when your new trade deal with the EU is agreed.
It will not escape the country’s notice that Nissan’s investment in Sunderland was secured last year on a promise to maintain the status quo and is now jeopardised by your embrace of a hard Brexit.
Your decision, for which there is no mandate, has therefore cast doubt over thousands of jobs across the North East; over the future of the UK as an attractive destination for global investors; and over our position as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.
In deciding to remove the UK from the single market and customs union you have decided to erect trade barriers – whether in the form of tariffs or new regulatory hurdles – between the UK and the half-billion-strong EU marketplace, our largest trading partner.
Every UK manufacturer knows that there is no Free Trade Agreement that can deliver the same degree of trade openness with the EU as we enjoy today. They will also have felt shivers down their spine after your statement that you would be prepared to leave the EU with ‘no deal’, since moving on to the WTO without a preferential trade arrangement would mean UK manufacturing facing eye-watering tariffs.
You will have had submissions from industry making these points, of course, but you have chosen to ignore them, siding instead with the political fantasies of a section of your party.
It is vital you now answer these questions:
• Can you guarantee that no job will be lost in UK manufacturing as a result of your decision to leave the customs union and single market?
• Will you publicly repeat the assurances that were given to Nissan in private to all manufacturers and UK exporters to the EU, namely that UK-EU trade will continue without tariffs or bureaucratic impediments, or will you concede that these are incompatible with your ‘plan’?
• Will you admit that there is no EU Free Trade Agreement that gives the same degree of access to the EU marketplace as being a member of both the single market and customs union?
• Will you reveal which businesses have advocated maintaining our position within the customs union or in the single market to you or your Ministers, and outline your economic rationale for ignoring their arguments?
• Is there any amount of cost, for example in lost trade and investment, that would lead you to consider another trading relationship with the EU than the one set out in your ‘plan’?
• Do you accept that outside the customs union, components exported to the EU will have to adhere to ‘rules of origin’ checks, or can you definitively rule this out?
• If you are to seek specific agreements on customs co-operation for different sectors, which sectors will be prioritised?
• Do you accept that if the UK leaves the EU with ‘no deal’ we will face tariffs of 10% on cars, and will you rule this out?
• To give our constituents confidence can you outline which new trade deals will boost which UK manufacturing sectors?
In deciding to leave the customs union and single market you have chosen to deepen not ease the economic circumstances that led many to vote to leave the European Union last June. Your policy risks further damaging the North East of England, which benefits so much from overseas investment.
We of course accept the result of the referendum, we just reject your interpretation of what it means and want to protect jobs and industry.
We look forward to your response.
Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon
Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for City of Durham
Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland
Alan Campbell, MP for Tynemouth
Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley
Jenny Chapman, MP for Darlington
Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North
Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central
Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham
Mary Glindon, MP for North Tyneside
Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland
Stephen Hepburn, MP for Jarrow
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington & Sunderland West
Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck
Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields
Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North
Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead
Grahame Morris, MP for Easington
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton & Sunderland South
Anna Turley, MP for Redcar
Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield
Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool