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Nissan urges Britain to join the euro

NISSAN'S MOST senior executive in Britain yesterday warned that he would have increasing difficulty in persuading the Japanese parent company to invest in this country as along as we remained outside the euro.

Speaking as the millionth Micra rolled off the production line at the company's Sunderland plant, John Cushnaghan, managing director of Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK), said it was "essential" that Britain joined the European monetary system as soon as possible.

"I'm not saying we should go in at present, but we should go in as soon as conditions are right. At the moment we are facing a tough, uphill struggle," he said.

Decision-makers at Nissan's Japanese headquarters would be far better disposed towards a Britain that combined low inflation with low interest rates and a stable exchange rate, he said. Some 75 per cent of British- made Nissans were exported to the Continent and beyond. While output volumes and market penetration were holding up, the strong pound was having a significant effect on profitability.

British Nissan executives had managed to secure three models for production in the UK with a total investment of pounds 1.5bn. However, when they bid to produce the Almera family saloon nearly three years ago, the German mark- sterling exchange rate was around 2.40. Since then the pound had appreciated by around 20 per cent.

Although the Sunderland complex had been the most efficient car plant in Europe for the past three years, it was reaching the point when diminishing returns set in. There was a limit to the level of productivity that could be achieved.

Mr Cushnaghan's remarks on the euro were echoed yesterday By Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, who warned that the economy was being hit by "continuing uncertainty" over whether Britain will join the single currency.