All those car manufacturers suggesting they might look elsewhere for production facilities in the event of Britain leaving the EU, so we are soothingly told by those urging the hardest break possible come the end of next month, are just another manifestation of Project Fear. It is nothing more than scare stories. They want to sell us their motors, therefore they will want to make them close to the market. We should not be unduly concerned.
As to the supply chains and just-in-time manufacturing needing no customs barriers and no more delays than our increasingly sclerotic motorway network imposes already, well, everyone else manages, don’t they? They’re still investing. You can’t, so it is told, just up and move a car factory elsewhere. You’ll see. It’ll all turn out OK.
But now has come the bad news. Already, as Fleet News has observed, “Fresh inward investment in the UK automotive sector plummeted in 2018 - down almost half (46.5%) on 2017 to £588.6 million - amid fears over a ‘no deal’ Brexit, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) … British car production also fell to its lowest level for five years in 2018, with 1,519,440 new cars leaving UK factories, a decline of 9.1% and the second consecutive annual fall”. The industry does not want a no deal exit.
And now has come far, far worse. Sky News Tweeted out this taster “Sky Sources: Japanese car-maker Nissan is cancelling plans to build its X-Trail model at its plant in Sunderland”. Mark Kleinmann’s article has just confirmed the news. “Nissan will drop another bombshell into the heart of Britain's car manufacturing industry next week by announcing the cancellation of plans to manufacture its X-Trail model in the UK … Sky News has learnt that the Japanese car-maker's executives will confirm the move on Monday, casting further gloom over an already-embattled sector”.
There was more. “Sources said the X-Trail move would be interpreted as projecting renewed doubt over Nissan's future investment in the UK … Precise details of Nissan's impending announcement were unclear this weekend, but sources said it was likely to initially involve abandoning the X-Trail production plans which had been announced in the autumn of 2016”. No-one should be surprised. Others may follow suit.
Also, there was this ominous warning. “The consequences of the announcement for the longer-term future of Sunderland were uncertain, although some car industry insiders believe that Nissan may seek to further scale back its operations there during the coming years”. The only unknown is that we don’t know who is next. But someone will be.
When Margaret Thatcher opened the Sunderland plant in 1986, she said “It was confirmation from Nissan that within the whole of Europe, the United Kingdom was the most attractive country - politically and economically - for large-scale investment”.
Mrs T’s industry minister Keith Joseph put it more directly: “The deal [is] tangible evidence of the benefits to the UK of membership of the European Community; Nissan [has] chosen the United Kingdom because it [gives] them access to the whole European market. If we were outside the community, it is very unlikely that Nissan would have given the United Kingdom serious consideration as a base for this substantial investment”.
What would the Sunderland area be without Nissan? Project Reality just arrived.
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I was at a car supply chain manufacturer last week. Without their product there would be no JLR, Ford or Volvos rolling off production lines.
4 years ago we worked hard to secure their presence in the UK and they invested millions over a German plant.
They have costed scenarios and any Brexit deal will cost them. It could be as much as £2m a year, if it is that's 700 more car supply chain jobs going to Germany.
If Nissan does go it'll be the final epitaph for the despised Thatcher and the tories.
Not that it'll help the economically besieged north east.
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