It was with great relief that I heard the news that Nissan is to build both the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV at its Sunderland plant. This secures 7000 jobs and hopefully also guarantees a prosperous and bright future for Sunderland, which is in my constituency of the North East of England. The future of the Nissan Sunderland plant was one of my greatest worries, following the vote to leave the European Union, and I am thrilled that its future is assured, now, for many years ahead.
However, this security does not come without its cost. Nissan, among other things, wanted guaranteed compensation for costs related to any new trade tariffs resulting from Brexit. The government has not confirmed if they guaranteed this money, nor have they confirmed anything else that they have promised Nissan—and we know that Nissan were also concerned about access to the Single Market and maintaining freedom of movement for its workers.
The public deserves to know the terms of this deal; as the public have almost certainly paid for it. In the long term, it does the North East and the country as a whole little good if a deal like this may only be available for one company, conditions unknown. Jobs in Sunderland matter, but so do jobs in Hartlepool and Newcastle and Berwick. I want all of my constituents to be protected, and I want all of their jobs to be secure.
The issue of exports is crucial for the North East after Brexit. The value of exports from the North East is £12 billion per year, and in 2014 it was equivalent to just over 26% of the region’s GVA, the value of goods and services produced in an area. This is a higher proportion than any other region in the UK, and exports to the EU account for around 57.7% of this. Almost two thirds of the North East’s exports to the EU are reliant on road vehicles, medical and pharmaceutical products, and organic chemicals. This range of exports leaves the region vulnerable to shock in global markets such as tariffs on exports. We need guarantees for these exports, and their supply chains—even the Nissan supply chain is by no means secure.
There are other major employers in the North East whose future we should be worried about—like Nifco, which manufactures plastic car components and has 560 employees in Teesside, and Virgin Money, which has its UK-based bank headquartered in Newcastle, employing 2,900 people. It is not enough for some people to get guarantees and not others. The North East needs an economy which works for everyone and where not a single job is lost.
As Phil Wilson, the MP for Sedgefield said in the debate on Leaving the EU: North-East Exports in Westminster on Tuesday, “although my constituents may have voted to leave the EU, I do not believe that they voted to be poorer, to put their jobs at risk or to see their region fall further behind.” I feel much the same. My constituents voted for a leave campaign that told them that neither their jobs nor our wider economy would be at risk: it is time for the government to guarantee that for them.