Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said that the government is “absolutely committed” to securing the future of car manufacturing at the Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire.
Over the last week, ministers have been in talks with the plant’s owners Stellantis over whether the company will develop its new Astra model at the plant.
Stellantis – the new company formed by the merger of Peugeot owner PSA and Renault – has said it will need support from the government to keep the plant open.
Kwarteng said that he had held a number of conversations with Stellantis, as well as subsidiary Vauxhall, which runs the plant, and unions such as Unite.
He said that he would continue with such discussions over the “coming days and weeks”.
Labour shadow business minister Lucy Powell said that the failure to secure the plant’s future was an example of how the government had been “asleep at the wheel” when it came to its response to the car industry during the pandemic.
The 1,000 people employed at Ellesmere Port have been awaiting clarity over their future since Stellantis boss Carlos Tavares threw it into doubt in January.
Speaking at an event to mark the birth of the new firm, Tavares said that as a result of the Brexit deal, Stellantis would only be able to make its electric vehicle investment in either the UK or Europe.
“The biggest market is on the continental European side so if you look at it from a pure logistic perspective or from a paperwork perspective, perhaps it is better to put it in continental Europe”, Tavares said.