A North East MP has warned that leaving the EU’s customs union will mean ‘massive job losses’.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott was speaking as Prime Minister Theresa May held Brexit talks with bosses from more than 20 Japanese firms - including Nissan - in Downing Street.
I would urge the Government to look again at the UK remaining in the Customs Union. Without this I cannot see any workable solution to the problems of the introduction of tariffs on manufacturing in the UK, which will lead to massive job losses.Julie Elliott MP
The heads of businesses including household names such as Mitsubishi, Honda, and Panasonic met at Number 10 amid concern over the impact of Brexit on economic growth.
Almost 900 Japanese companies employ more than 140,000 staff in the UK, according to figures from the Japan External Trade Organisation and the Japanese Embassy.
Nissan employs 7,000 people directly at its Sunderland plant, with more than twice as many again working in the plant’s supply chain, much of which is based in South Tyneside.
Julie Elliott said the meeting was not before time: “I welcome the meeting taking place but it should have happened months ago,” she said.
“I have raised the issues facing manufacturing in Sunderland and the wider North East repeatedly to the Government - they have no answers.
“I would urge the Government to look again at the UK remaining in the Customs Union. Without this I cannot see any workable solution to the problems of the introduction of tariffs on manufacturing in the UK, which will lead to massive job losses.”
Official estimates of the potential impact of non-tariff barriers - such as extra red tape, customs checks and rules of origin regulations - suggest the motor industry faces cost increases of up to 13%, depending on the terms of any Brexit deal.
Joined by Chancellor Phillip Hammond, Business Secretary Greg Clark and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Mrs May opened the meeting, saying: “As we look to the relationship between the UK and Japan we see already year-on-year trade between our two countries continues to increase, with Japans’s investment in the UK reaching £46.5 billion in 2016.”
She told them the Government’s modern industrial strategy made the UK “more attractive”.
And she added: “Just today we have seen the Bank of England raise its forecast for UK growth compared with its estimates three months ago.
“I recognise UK’s exit for the European Union is no small undertaking, but importantly it does present an opportunity to strike free trade deals around the world and build on our already strong relationship with Japan.”