Nissan’s demands letter reveals govt’s “ad hoc” industrial strategy “not up to job of Brexit”

Unite has blasted the Tories’ “ad hoc” industrial strategy as not up to the job of Brexit, after details of the government’s deal with Nissan emerged.

The Times obtained a four page letter written in October from Nissan chairman Paul Willcox to business secretary Greg Clark, laying out the firm’s demands to ensure that Nissan’s Sunderland plant stayed open.

A number of the demands correspond with announcements made by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) during the last six months, The Times reported.

These include a project highlighted by Willcox to make sure Nissan electric car batteries “have a sustainable second life as storage systems in homes and offices”.

Last month, Innovate UK – which is overseen by Beis – announced the government would be investing in “exploring how old Nissan electric vehicle batteries can be used to store peak electricity from UK homes”.

The Nissan letter also requested that government make it compulsory for large residential developments to install electric car charging points, as well as making councils responsible for ensuring that they are accessible and operational.

Nissan’s letter stated: “It may be helpful to look at the German model: A €1 billion national programme to promote electric vehicles includes €330 million specifically allocated for infrastructure funding.”

In October, the government announced grants to support the wider use of hybrid and electric cars – these included the Office for Low Emission Vehicles funding up to 75 percent of the cost of installing electric car charge points at domestic properties.

In April, the business secretary also announced the Industrial Strategy fund, which will provide £1bn over four years for six areas, including clean and flexible energy storage, batteries and self-driving cars.

While welcoming movement to support British manufacturing, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said the Nissan deal belied the government’s “hit and miss” approach.

“Everything the government does is either hit or miss because it doesn’t have a proper industrial strategy. There’s no joined up thinking. Any deals offered to Nissan should be offered to the other car manufacturers as part of a wider vision, which includes urgent action from the government to help bring car component manufacturing – such as the production of electronic car batteries – to the UK,” said Burke.

“To retain the UK’s status as a global player in manufacturing there needs to be a radical rethink of what our economy needs. This means the entire manufacturing sector – from aerospace and shipbuilding to chemicals and pharmaceuticals – needs to be treated equally.

“The Tories ad hoc industrial strategy is not up to the job of reinforcing our foundation industries ahead of Brexit. Labour, however, will support our skills and jobs through investment, ensuring a successful economy and decent well paid work for our members.”