Business secretary reveals he told Nissan tariff-free trade would be on the Brexit negotiating table

Hayley Kirton
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Nissan announced it was investing in Sunderland last week (Source: Getty)

Nissan were told tariff levels, particularly working to achieve tariff-free trade, would form a key part of the Brexit discussions, the business secretary has revealed today.

The Japanese car manufacturer said last Thursday that it was staying put in Sunderland to build its next Qashqai and X-trail models, having previously warned it may opt not invest in the region following the Brexit vote.

However, government was forced to deny striking a sweetheart deal with Nissan, as the change of heart had taken place after a series of meetings.

Now, business secretary Greg Clark has told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show he had reassured the car manufacturer a "constructive" discussion around keeping trade tariff free would form a critical part of the Brexit negotiations.

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Clark added that, because of the way supply chains snaked across the world, such a deal would likely be in the interest of the EU member states as well.

Clark called last week's announcement "a big moment" for the country following June's Brexit decision, telling Marr that, if Nissan had instead revealed it was saying goodbye to Sunderland, the two of them would be having a very different conversation at the moment and the journalist would "quite rightly feel that I wasn't active enough" in securing the manufacturer's confidence.

He added that he had not made any commitment to provide Nissan with compensation post-Brexit and the promises so far were not specifically to benefit Nissan, remarking: "A lot of this applies to the industry generally."

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However, appearing on Peston On Sunday just moments later, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer slammed the lack of transparency in the conversations which were held with Nissan, adding that Clark had let slip much more in his Marr interview than he had in parliament.

"To learn of this in an interview this morning is the wrong way to prepare for these negotiations," Starmer added.

Hints that the government had extended reassurances to the car manufacturing sector must have come as a blow to those in the financial services sector, as sources have previously told City A.M. their negotiations with government have not progressed as smoothly as hoped.

Although Clark did not reveal government's thinking on securing passporting rights, he stressed the sector was important to the UK economy.

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