Nissan invested because of confidence not chequebook, says Business Secretary

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No chequebook was used to tempt Nissan to boost its manufacturing in Britain, Business Secretary Greg Clark has insisted.

With Labour demanding the Government comes clean on any "secret deals" with the car giant, ministers have side-stepped reports that Nissan was given written assurances that it would be compensated if the EU imposed a post-Brexit tariff barrier against British exports.

Mr Clark told BBC Question Time that no financial favours were offered, saying: "There's no chequebook. I don't have a chequebook.

"The important thing is that they know this is a country in which they can have confidence they can invest. That was the assurance and the understanding they had, and they have invested their money."

The Japanese giant's decision to build its next-generation Qashqai, and add production of the new X-Trail model, at its Sunderland plant was seized on by Prime Minister Theresa May as proof that the UK was an attractive investment hub despite the flux caused by the Brexit vote.

When pressed on whether written assurances on compensation for any future EU tariffs had been given, Mr Clark told the BBC: "We have had, obviously, as you might imagine, lots of communication between us, but actually what it rests on is a very strong mutual confidence." 

Colin Lawther, Nissan's senior vice president for manufacturing in Europe, denied there was a special deal for the company.

"No, there is no offer of exchange. It's just the commitment from the Government to work with the whole of the automotive industry to make sure that the whole automotive industry in the UK remains competitive," he told the programme.

Asked if Nissan had received written assurances from the Government on what would happen if tariffs were imposed in the future, he said: "There's nothing, there's no special deal for Nissan. We are working within the whole of the automotive industry. We would expect nothing for us that the rest of the industry wouldn't be able to have access to."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell warned that "secret deals behind closed doors" would damage business confidence in the UK.

"It's utterly chaotic at the moment. We have got a situation where we get leaks and rumours. Are they now going to decide, literally, factory by factory the support they are going to give?" 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "It must be made public, because it is public money that will be used if there are any inducements that have been offered and, quite obviously, if you are offering big inducements to one industry or one manufacturer, then all the others will quite reasonably say 'Well, what about us?'"

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron welcomed the investment news but said it was "utterly ridiculous" that Mrs May was having to give "special assurances" to key manufacturers to deal with the "Brexit fallout her Government is creating".

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn went to Downing Street earlier this month for crunch talks with the Prime Minister.

He said the manufacturer could make the production decision due to "support and assurances" from the Government.