Nissan 'Brexit bung' has come back to bite, say anti-Brexit campaigners

PUBLISHED: 15:40 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:17 04 February 2019

The Nissan Factory in Sunderland. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

The Nissan Factory in Sunderland. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

The business secretary promised Nissan an £80 million "Brexit bung" as it tried to convince the car manufacturer to produce its newest model in Sunderland.

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A previously confidential letter to the bosses of Nissan from the business secretary Greg Clark has been released to the Financial Times.

In the letter - which the government refused to publish on multiple occasions - Clark says that the car maker would be a “critical priority” in the Brexit talks.

It also said that the government would offer to firm up to £80 million to support the development of skills, research and development, which led to accusations that ministers were doing secretive deal with firms ahead of Brexit.

“The government fully recognizes the significance of the EU market to your presence in Sunderland,” the business minister told the then Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn.

“It will be a critical priority of our negotiation to support UK car manufacturers and ensure that their ability to export to and from the EU is not adversely affected by the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”

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“We will set our ambitions high and vigorously pursue continued access to the European market as an objective in future negotiations.”

Commenting on the letter a spokesperson for Nissan said that it “shows Nissan and the UK government’s continued desire to support investment in the UK and maintain Sunderland as one of Nissan’s manufacturing hubs in Europe”.

A spokesperson for the government told the Times it would be reviewing the offer in light of Nissan’s decision.

Best for Britain boss Eloise Todd branded the money a ‘Brexit bribe’ which had come back to bite the government.

She said: “This £80 million ‘Brexit Bung’ has been hidden from the public for years. The government have promised and promised to release this letter to Nissan but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it and now we can see why. As Nissan make a U-turn and say sayonara to building the X-trail in Sunderland, the government is left deeply embarrassed.

“This Brexit bribe has come back to bite the government.”

A senior Nissan boss blasted Brexit “uncertainty” as he confirmed that the company had scrapped plans to build the X-Trail 4x4 at its Sunderland plant, but said that the decision had been taken for “business reasons”.

Officials from Unite met with management at the Sunderland plant and expressed their “anger and disappointment” over how the announcement over future production of the X-Trail was handled.

Unite official Steve Bush said a “great deal of anxiety” had been caused to the 7,000-strong workforce.

He said guarantees had been given that future production of the Juke and Qashqai models were not affected.

Bush said: “Unite will continue to press for further long-term guarantees over future investment and new models to secure the site’s future for generations to come.

“What this whole sorry saga shows is that the sector-wide uncertainty caused by Brexit urgently needs to be addressed by ministers because it is draining the industry of skills, investment and new jobs.”

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