1. ITV Report

North East MPs in Brexit jobs fears letter to PM

24 Labour MPs from the North East have written to Theresa May asking specific questions about the impact of the car industry, saying that her decision to pull the UK out of the European Union’s single market and customs union will have a “damaging” impact on investment and manufacturing across the region.

The letter has been organised by the Open Britain campaign, which was the official Remain campaign group before the EU referendum, then going under the name 'Britain Stronger In Europe.

The letter expresses concern about the reported comments of Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, last week, who said that when his company sees the final Brexit deal negotiated by the Prime Minister they will “have to re-evaluate the situation” regarding the “competitiveness” of Nissan’s Sunderland plant.

These concerns from the Labour MPs come despite an announcement from Nissan last October that the new Qashqai model would be built on Wearside, provide job security for about 7,000 people.

Nissan also announced that production of its X-trail model will be moved from Japan to Sunderland.

Nissan assembly line, Wearside. Credit: ITV News

"Theresa May has decided to follow a hard Brexit and as a result long-term investment in the North East is at risk.

“The Government’s greatest priority in the Brexit negotiations should be protecting jobs, like the many thousands employed by Nissan and its supply chain in the North East. Outside the single market and customs union, jobs will be insecure as there will be new trade barriers between us and our largest trading partner – the EU. There is no mandate for this from voters. It is the Prime Minister’s choice and working people will pay the price.

“If a hard Brexit does lead to people being laid off in Sunderland and elsewhere, the Prime Minister must swallow her pride, change course, and keep Britain in the single market and customs union.”

– Julie Elliott MP, Sunderland Central, Labour

The letter to the Prime Minister in full:

Dear Prime Minister,

Following your decision to withdraw the United Kingdom from the EU single market and customs union, the Chief Executive of Nissan has said that this huge UK employer will now have to “re-evaluate” their UK investments when your new trade deal with the EU is agreed.

It will not escape the country’s notice that Nissan’s investment in Sunderland was secured last year on a promise to maintain the status quo and is now jeopardised by your embrace of a hard Brexit.

Your decision, for which there is no mandate, has therefore cast doubt over thousands of jobs across the North East; over the future of the UK as an attractive destination for global investors; and over our position as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.

In deciding to remove the UK from the single market and customs union you have decided to erect trade barriers – whether in the form of tariffs or new regulatory hurdles – between the UK and the half-billion-strong EU marketplace, our largest trading partner.

Every UK manufacturer knows that there is no Free Trade Agreement that can deliver the same degree of trade openness with the EU as we enjoy today. They will also have felt shivers down their spine after your statement that you would be prepared to leave the EU with ‘no deal’, since moving on to the WTO without a preferential trade arrangement would mean UK manufacturing facing eye- watering tariffs.

You will have had submissions from industry making these points, of course, but you have chosen to ignore them, siding instead with the political fantasies of a section of your party.

It is vital you now answer these questions:

• Can you guarantee that no job will be lost in UK manufacturing as a result of your decision to leave the customs union and single market?

• Will you publicly repeat the assurances that were given to Nissan in private to all manufacturers and UK exporters to the EU, namely that UK-EU trade will continue without tariffs or bureaucratic impediments, or will you concede that these are incompatible with your ‘plan’?

• Will you admit that there is no EU Free Trade Agreement that gives the same degree of access to the EU marketplace as being a member of both the single market and customs union?

• Will you reveal which businesses have advocated maintaining our position within the customs union or in the single market to you or your Ministers, and outline your economic rationale for ignoring their arguments?

• Is there any amount of cost, for example in lost trade and investment, that would lead you to consider another trading relationship with the EU than the one set out in your ‘plan’?

• Do you accept that outside the customs union, components exported to the EU will have to adhere to ‘rules of origin’ checks, or can you definitively rule this out?

• If you are to seek specific agreements on customs co-operation for different sectors, which sectors will be prioritised?

• Do you accept that if the UK leaves the EU with ‘no deal’ we will face tariffs of 10% on cars, and will you rule this out?

• To give our constituents confidence can you outline which new trade deals will boost which UK manufacturing sectors?

In deciding to leave the customs union and single market you have chosen to deepen not ease the economic circumstances that led many to vote to leave the European Union last June. Your policy risks further damaging the North East of England, which benefits so much from overseas investment.

We of course accept the result of the referendum, we just reject your interpretation of what it means and want to protect jobs and industry.

We look forward to your response.

The list of signiatories:

  • Dave Anderson MP, Blaydon
  • Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, City of Durham
  • Tom Blenkinsop MP, Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland
  • Alan Campbell MP, Tynemouth
  • Ronnie Campbell MP, Blyth Valley
  • Jenny Chapman MP, Darlington
  • Alex Cunningham MP, Stockton North
  • Julie Elliott MP, Sunderland Central
  • Pat Glass MP, North West Durham
  • Mary Glindon MP, North Tyneside
  • Helen Goodman MP, Bishop Auckland
  • Stephen Hepburn MP, Jarrow
  • Sharon Hodgson MP, Washington & Sunderland West
  • Kevan Jones MP, North Durham
  • Ian Lavery,MP, Wansbeck
  • Emma Lewell-Buck MP, South Shields
  • Catherine McKinnell MP, Newcastle upon Tyne North
  • Ian Mearns MP, Gateshead
  • Grahame Morris MP, Easington
  • Chi Onwurah MP, Newcastle upon Tyne Central
  • Bridget Phillipson MP, Houghton & Sunderland South
  • Anna Turley MP, Redcar
  • Phil Wilson MP, Sedgefield
  • Iain Wright MP, Hartlepool

Last week, the Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said that Theresa May's announcement that she would take the UK out of the European single market and seek a comprehensive free trade agreement with the remaining EU was "not a surprise" and "does not change the decision" to continue investing in Sunderland.

The Government has denied it offered a "sweetheart deal" to Nissan to secure the future of the Sunderland plant - which makes one in three of all cars manufactured in the UK - but has so far resisted calls to publish the "letter of comfort" sent by Business Secretary Greg Clark.