Future of Work

The boss of Nissan has warned that Brexit uncertainty and possible tariffs could damage investment in the UK’s biggest car factory. Chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the firm would need “compensation” for tax barriers that might result from Britain leaving the European Union.

Nissan’s plant in Sunderland produces about a third of the UK’s car output. The comments come amid warnings from the UK car industry about the risk of EU tariffs from Brexit.

“If I need to make an investment in the next few months and I can’t wait until the end of Brexit, then I have to make a deal with the UK government,” Mr Ghosn, who also runs France’s Renault, said at the Paris Motor Show.

“You can have commitments of compensation in case you have something negative,” he said.

Nissan is due to decide early next year on where to build its next Qashqai sport utility vehicle.

The plant at Sunderland is Nissan’s biggest factory in Europe, employs 6,700 people and has the capacity to produce around 500,000 cars per year.

“We would like to stay. We’re happy, we have a good plant, which is productive but we cannot stay if the conditions do not justify that we stay,” he added.

Mr Ghosn told the BBC that the Sunderland plant would “lose competitiveness” if Brexit meant the UK had to pay 10% tariffs to import into the EU.

The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, said on Thursday it was in other countries’ interests to avoid tariffs which he said would “harm the people of Europe”.

In 2015, around 1.59 million cars were manufactured in Britain with 80% of them for exports – mostly to European countries. The industry employs around 800,000 people.

In a separate call for action on Brexit, Japanese carmaker Honda on Thursday urged the British government to take “a fast decision”.

“Then what we need is free trade,” Jean Marc Streng, Honda’s general manager for Europe, told the BBC. “The sooner we have a clear statement on Brexit the better it is for us,” he said.

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