Brexit is a poker match, and Nissan remind Theresa May what's at stake

Prime Minister Theresa May Credit: PA

By Daniel Hewitt, Political Correspondent

Downing Street says the Prime Minister meets with business leaders all of the time, but this was no ordinary meeting and right now Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is no ordinary business leader.

He has been one of the most outspoken company Chief Executives since the referendum result in June, and his threat to pause investment in Sunderland, to not build the next Quashqai model at the North East plant,, has been heard loud and clear inside Number 10.

The fact that Theresa May chose to bring Carlos Ghosn to Downing Street, to speak to him face-to-face about his concerns, so soon after announcing she will trigger Article 50 in March, shows just how vital the Sunderland plant and the future of its 7000 workers are to the Prime Minister's Brexit plans.

Shortly after the meeting Mrs May said Nissan was at he heart of the UK's auto industry and vowed to 'to work with Nissan as we develop the environment for competitiveness of the automotive industry here in the UK to ensure its success'. Mr Ghosn described the meeting as 'productive'.

Whether that means agreeing to pay compensation to car manufactures like Nissan for potential tariffs imposed upon them after Brexit remains unanswered. That's what Mr Ghosn has said he wants, but today was, as he put it, an 'initial introductory meeting'. No 'specific agreement' was expected on either side.

The continued ambiguity of Theresa May's public statements are systematic of the political poker game she is attempting to play. She wants to keep her cards close to her chest, not reveal her negotiating hand, whilst at the same time not spook businesses like Nissan.

Carlos Ghosn meanwhile made the point of arriving in Downing Street today in a Nissan Quashqai made in Sunderland. Parked up outside Number 10, it was a reminder to the Prime Minister of the star prize at stake here - this is what you could win Mrs May, if you play your cards right - but play them wrong, and that prize will be some other country's to win.