David Prosser: US bombshell left GM Europe stuck in one lane

Outlook: Don't be surprised if the US's behaviour has serious repercussions for European jobs.
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The Independent Online

We do not yet know what detailed terms Magna has agreed with GM to take on its European operation, or even if the deal will happen – there were still plenty of uncertainties last night. What we can say, however, is that any GM Europe employees – including the 5,000 Vauxhall workers in the UK – who subsequently discover this is a bad deal for them should look across the Atlantic to Washington when they want someone to blame.

By lunchtime yesterday, Magna was the only player in the negotiations to take on Vauxhall and Opel. Fiat, for so long the front- runner, pulled out after the German government said it was on the line for the €300m shortfall in the emergency funding needed for the business. And that shortfall was created by the last-minute decision of the US government to deny GM Europe access to cash funds available to the US parent company.

In fact, the US government cares so little about GM Europe that it sent a representative to this week's talks on the business's future who was so junior he had to keep stepping out to call his bosses back home for instructions. When the Germans made a fuss, Hillary Clinton offered some comforting words – roughly along the lines of "I'll see what I can do". As it turned out, not a lot.

The result was that Magna had the negotiations to itself by yesterday afternoon, which hardly left the Germans with much room to demand assurances about job security, whether in Germany itself, or elsewhere. Cross your fingers, but don't be surprised if the US's behaviour has serious repercussions for European jobs.