Leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, Nick Clegg MP, has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, asking a series of questions about what assurances were given to Nissan following the Cabinet Minister’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show.
Mr Clegg’s letter to Mr Clark welcomes Nissan’s decision and the role the Government played in it but asks whether it is ‘part of a planned strategy with a desired endpoint, or a one-off concession which shows those that shout the loudest get the best deal from Ministers.’ Mr Clegg argues that ‘such jumble sale economics would lead to piecemeal, sweetheart deals for individual companies, rather than the long-term strategy an economy as complex as Britain’s needs.’
Mr Clegg and the Open Britain campaign are calling for the Secretary of State to come before Parliament this week to answer questions about the nature of the assurances given to Nissan; their potential impact on other businesses and sectors; and, most crucially, what they mean about the Government’s thinking about the UK’s future relationship with the Customs Union and the Single Market.
The full text of the letter from Nick Clegg MP to Greg Clark is below:
The Government deserves credit for the work you have done in securing Nissan’s commitment to the future of its plant in Sunderland. It’s great news for the thousands of people that work there and in the supply-chain, for the regional economy, and for our auto manufacturing sector as a whole.
You confirmed on the Andrew Marr Show this weekend that you gave written assurances to Nissan about the Government’s ambitions for the economy after we leave the European Union. You said you had told Nissan your “objective would be to ensure we have continued access to the markets in Europe and vice versa without tariffs and bureaucratic impediments, and that is how we will approach those negotiations.”
This is a significant statement which suggests the Government has taken decisions about its preferred future trading relationship with the EU, specifically how we will interact with and/or continue our membership of the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market. It is encouraging that you seem confident in securing these objectives, but disappointing that you feel able to share this with Nissan in private but not with Parliament or the public.
Any assurances given about our future relationship with the Customs Union and the Single Market would go to the very heart of the Brexit negotiations, revealing whether the Government is intending to stay within either, or whether you intend to negotiate a patchwork of carve-outs, subsidies and sectoral arrangements, which will create winners and losers and may cost the taxpayer colossal amounts of money.
It is unclear, however, whether assurances given to Nissan are part of a planned strategy with a desired endpoint, or a one-off concession which shows those who shout the loudest get the best deal from Ministers.
Such jumble sale economics would lead to piecemeal, sweetheart deals for individual companies, rather than the long-term strategy an economy as complex as Britain’s needs.
To address any such concerns, I support calls from colleagues across the House for the Government to bring substantive plans for the Brexit negotiations before Parliament – in the equivalent of a White Paper – and for them to be put to a vote.
Before that, however, there are some key questions I would be grateful if you could answer.
- What assurances were given about how our economy will in future interact with the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market? Do you envisage that requiring financial contributions from the taxpayer? And, as your stated objective is to trade without tariffs and bureaucratic impediments, do you accept that the simplest way to do that – in theory at least – is to retain full participation in both the Customs Union and Single Market?
- If a ‘carve-out’ is expected for the auto industry to avoid ‘bureaucratic impediments’, what will it cover; will all customs duties and checks be abolished; and on what basis has the Government been able to make such an assurance at this stage? Have these assurances been provided just to the auto industry or will they be extended to other sectors?
- You will be aware that ‘bureaucratic impediments’ in the form of non-tariff barriers are a serious concern for our service sectors. Can you give a public assurance that the Government’s negotiating strategy will seek to minimise these for services as well as manufacturers?
I would be grateful if you could answer these questions and I believe that you should come before Parliament to provide a full account of the discussions with Nissan in the context of the Government’s wider negotiating strategy.