After the Nissan investment decision this week and the reports of assurances and understanding given to the car manufacturer by the Government, Chuka Umunna MP, leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, has written to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, requesting the publication of the ‘details of the commitments, written or otherwise, given by Downing Street and the rest of the Government to Nissan.’
The full text of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary from leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, Chuka Umunna MP said:
Dear Cabinet Secretary,
Nissan’s commitment this week to the future of its plant in Sunderland is a credit to the Government. This will mean an enormous amount to the 7,000 people who work there, the tens of thousands more involved in the supply chain, the North East economy and our world-beating auto-manufacturing sector as a whole.
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said that Nissan had been given “the assurance and understanding” that Britain remains a safe country in which to invest is extremely welcome. Given Nissan’s statements after the referendum about the hard choices it would confront were it to face inferior terms of trade with the EU, the Government’s success raises questions about the nature of the assurances given to Nissan. People naturally want more information given the vital importance of the issues at stake.
Automotive-manufacturing companies and their supply chains could face tariffs of up to ten per cent on their products and new regulatory trade barriers if the UK were to leave the EU’s Single Market. And if the UK were to leave the EU’s Customs Union companies would face new and costly bureaucracy as components cross borders.
Other vital sectors of our economy, such as the aerospace industry, agriculture and the financial services industries are likewise dependent on our place within the Single Market and Customs Union, which minimise tariff and non-tariff barriers to an unparalleled degree. If the UK were to leave both there would be a profoundly damaging impact on these and other sectors.
It is vital to understand, therefore, the assurances that were given that determined Nissan’s decision.
There has been speculation that the Government may have suggested that public money could be used to compensate Nissan, be it in direct aid or through more indirect means. Others have suggested that Ministers may have given an indication about the UK’s future role in relation to the Customs Union or Single Market.
If either are true, they pose huge questions, most importantly what financial support was offered; whether any limit was placed on the public finance available; and whether the same assurances would be extended to other automotive-manufacturers and other sectors, including service sectors.
I am of course supportive of the Government’s aim to protect our manufacturing base, but it seems extraordinary that the Government would reveal elements of its negotiating strategy to multinational companies when it is at the same time doing its best to keep Parliament and the public in the dark.
To ensure there is rigorous public scrutiny of Government decision-making, I urge you to immediately publish details of the commitments, written or otherwise, given by Downing Street and the rest of the Government to Nissan.
Only this can give both businesses and taxpayers the certainty they need that this deal will be beneficial for the exchequer and will be available for other companies that likewise contribute to our economy and employ large numbers of people in Britain.
Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham