Sunderland plant at risk if UK stays outside euro, says Nissan

The Japanese car maker Nissan yesterday issued its clearest warning yet that it would review the future of its Sunderland assembly plant unless Britain joins the euro.

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's president, said this was not a threat but a "reality", adding that the company had to be able to make cars at a profit.

The Sunderland plant won a reprieve two years ago when Nissan decided to build the new Micra there rather than in France after nearly a year of soul-searching.

Sunderland was eventually chosen because of its productivity record, even though the Japanese company was worried about having a cost base in pounds when the plant earns most of its revenues in euros.

"When the next investments come in the next couple of years, we hope we don't have to go through the same kind of analysis," Mr Ghosn said in an interview with BBC News Online. "Obviously, that's not our decision. It's the decision of the UK government. That's why it's our duty to express our difficulties and our hopes and let them make the decisions."

Nissan has invested £1.5bn on the Sunderland plant, which has a workforce of 5,000. Asked whether he was threatening to switch production and jobs abroad, Mr Ghosn said: "No, it's a reality. It's not a question of a threat, it's a reality that we will take this into consideration each time we have to make an investment."

His comments were seized upon by the pro-euro lobby as evidence of the damage being done to British industry by staying outside the single European currency. Simon Buckby, campaign director of Britain in Europe, said: "This is a thinly veiled warning that if Britain says 'no' to the euro, foreign investors will say 'no' to Britain. Firms such as Nissan are hanging on here in the hope that we will join. Others, such as Black & Decker and Massey Ferguson, have already found the costs of isolation too much to bear, Britain cannot afford to ignore these warnings."

Sir Ken Jackson, the pro-euro joint general secretary of the AEEU-Amicus union, said: "Nissan's remarks underline the risk to British jobs of continued UK exclusion from eurozone membership. People must be in no doubt that if the anti-Europeans have their way it will be a disaster for the UK export economy and working people in this country."

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