The European commission is examining the details of Britain’s secret deal with Nissan, it can be revealed.
Officials in Brussels have made contact with the UK government to find out what promises the business secretary, Greg Clark, made to the Japanese carmaker to keep its business in the UK.
The UK is not allowed to offer state aid, such as financial assistance, under EU rules that prevent countries from propping up companies and industries to the disadvantage of competitors from fellow member states. The commission can fine member states and force the company that has benefited to return any money.
Last month, Nissan announced that two new car models would be built in Sunderland, safeguarding 7,000 jobs, after receiving “support and assurances” from the government about the UK’s future outside the EU.
He reportedly gave a “last-minute written promise” to Nissan to protect the company from the consequences of Brexit, including tariffs on exports from the UK.
Speaking on BBC1’s Question Time last month, Clark indicated that there had been no offer of financial compensation or state aid. “There’s no chequebook. I don’t have a chequebook,” he said.
A European commission spokesman said: “We have seen press reports regarding this issue. As a result, the commission at services level is in contact with the UK authorities. Such exchanges of information are common.
“In this specific case, the UK authorities have not notified any support to Nissan for assessment under EU state aid rules. We have not taken any formal views on the matter.”
The building of the Qashqai and the X-Trail in Sunderland had been in doubt following the Brexit vote on 23 June. The agreement with Nissan was regarded as a major political success.
Theresa May hailed the carmaker’s decision as “fantastic news” and a vote of confidence in the UK at the time of the announcement.
In September, Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, said the company would need compensation for tax barriers that might result from Britain leaving the EU. About one-third of UK car production takes place at the Sunderland plant.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has said he is pleased there will be continued investment in Sunderland, but said concerns remained about any secret deal between the government and the carmaker.
“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?’” he said.
European commission to examine terms of UK’s deal with Nissan … – The Guardian