McCluskey: Government must steady manufacturing’s Brexit nerves, commit to the single market

With Nissan today (Tuesday 28 February) warning MPs that it is keeping its commitment to the UK under review, despite assurances it may have been offered by the government, the leader of Britain’s biggest union has again urged the prime minister to commit to existing trade arrangements.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has said that the only way to steady Brexit nerves in manufacturing, including the automotive sector, is to make it clear that the UK will retain access to the single market and membership of the customs union.

His remarks follow the appearance before the Commons International Trade Committee of Nissan’s vice-president Colin Lawther, who indicated that the company’s commitment to the UK would depend on what trade arrangements are put in place after Brexit.

Mr Lawther warned too, that the prospect of a 10 percent tariff on exports to the EU under WTO rules would be “disastrous.”

Nissan employs 7,000 people at its Sunderland plant.

McCluskey said: “Nissan’s comments today to the select committee are a depressing reminder of the problems that the government’s stubborn refusal to commit to our trading arrangements is causing.

“Clearly, whatever secret assurances the government offered, they cannot match the arrangements presently in place.

“UK manufacturing needs to hear loud and clear that the UK will retain access to the single market and the customs union, just as tens of thousands of UK people working in aerospace, defence, the automotive sector and across manufacturing need to hear the same.

“The prime minister is wrong to pose this as a choice between borders and jobs. Both can be secured, it is a matter of political will. The government should make that clear now and stop the needless fear spreading though workplaces.”