LONDON (Reuters) – Nissan’s <7201.T> car manufacturing plant in Sunderland, northern England, which employs 7,000, is “unsustainable” if Britain leaves the European Union without a trade deal, it said on Wednesday.
Ashwani Gupta, the Japanese company’s global chief operating head, told the BBC its commitment to the car plant, the United Kingdom’s largest, could not be maintained if there was no tariff-free access to the bloc.
The EU is the biggest market for the factory, which made just under 350,000 vehicles last year and builds the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf models.
“You know we are the number one carmaker in the UK and we want to continue. We are committed. Having said that, if we are not getting the current tariffs, it’s not our intention but the business will not be sustainable. That’s what everybody has to understand,” Gupta told the BBC.
The United Kingdom left the EU on Jan. 31 but the main terms of its membership remain in place during a transition period until the end of this year, allowing it time to negotiate a new free trade deal with the bloc. However, the talks are at an impasse.
“We will continue to work hard to reach an agreement, for as long as there is a constructive process ongoing,” said a spokesman for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson when asked about Gupta’s comments.
“Our aim is zero tariffs and zero quotas – that is at least as much in the EU’s interest as ours and the EU has come close to reaching this aim in their other FTAs.”
Last week Nissan said it would close its plant in Barcelona from December as part of global cost cuts. The facility, its main car factory in Spain, employs 3,000.
Gupta also told the BBC that any plans for its strategic partner and 43% shareholder Renault <RENA.PA> to take up spare capacity at the Sunderland plant would be a matter for the French carmaker.
(Reporting by James Davey; additional reporting by Liz Piper, editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)