Nissan may ‘adjust’ UK business after Brexit deal is struck

Time 4:57 pm, February 28, 2017

CAR GIANT Nissan may ‘adjust’ its business in the UK depending on the outcome of Brexit, a senior executive told MPs today.

The car manufacturer announced in October that it was investing in production of new Qashqai and X-Trail models at Sunderland after receiving government assurances that EU withdrawal wouldn’t affect the plant’s competitiveness. But chief executive Carlos Ghosn later said the company would ‘re-evaluate the situation’ once the final deal was concluded. And senior vice-president Colin Lawther told MPs today that Nissan would ‘constantly review’ its decision in the light of any material changes to its ability to trade with the remaining EU.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons international trade committee, Lawther said that Nissan’s preferred outcome from Brexit negotiations was for Britain’s relations with the EU to ‘stay as they are’.

In its talks with the government, Nissan made ‘a strong request’ for Britain to remain within the European Customs Union, said Lawther, who warned that a move to World Trade Organisation tariffs would ‘change the business circumstances’ for the company.

Last month, prime minister Theresa May all but ruled out full membership of the Customs Union in her Lancaster House speech setting out her goals for Brexit. And speculation that the UK may have to fall back on WTO rules was heightened by her declaration that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.

Lawther, pictured, told the committee that a move to WTO tariffs would change the business environment for Nissan’s UK operations, adding: ‘We would have to look at the degrees of change and adjust our business to take into account whatever this new trading platform would be.’

The decision to expand in Sunderland was based on ‘a set of circumstances’ at that point in time, he said. ‘As those circumstances change, and we wouldn’t wait until the end of the process, we will continually review the decisions that we take, based on anything that materially changes,’ he told MPs.

‘So at the moment we have got a set of circumstances we are happy with and we will honour that decision going forward. But if anything materially changes, we would review constantly.’

Lawther stated that Nissan had not sought ‘monetary compensation’ from the government to offset the impact Brexit might have on its UK operations. Nissan was seeking grants from the government to support competitiveness, but this wasn’t linked to Brexit, he said.

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