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The leader of the main union at Vauxhall’s UK car plants has called on the government to offer the same assurances that were given to Nissan after the Brexit vote, after it was announced that the plants could be sold to France’s Peugeot.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, met with the business secretary Greg Clark after the unexpected announcement of the potential deal between Peugeot and General Motors. The Vauxhall plants are part of GM’s European operations, but are thought to be under threat if Peugeot takes over.
Mr McCluskey asked “without a shadow of doubt” for the British plants – the largest of which is at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire – to be offered the same assurances about their future competitiveness that Japan’s Nissan received in October.
The Nissan assurances – whose terms have not yet been made public – gave the Japanese manufacturer the confidence to press ahead with manufacturing new generations of its Qashqai and X-Trail sports utility vehicles at its plant in Sunderland.
Ellesmere Port, which builds Astra cars for both GM’s Vauxhall and Opel brands, is seen as especially vulnerable to any cutbacks following a deal, since it exports around 80 per cent of its production to mainland Europe but imports around three-quarters of its components. Such an arrangement could be highly vulnerable to any imposition of tariffs following the UK’s departure from the EU.
“We’re waiting to see what Nissan was offered,” Mr McCluskey said. “The automotive companies – all manufacturing companies – will be looking for similar assurances. There’s lots of different impacts at the moment. The Sterling and the drop in the pound has made it a little bit more difficult for some.”
The deal was potentially an opportunity to return more component manufacturing to the UK, Mr McCluskey said.
He added that Unite and the government share a “common objective” of securing the continuation of manufacturing work at Ellesmere Port and Luton, and at the aftersales depot in Toddington in Bedfordshire.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not immediately respond to requests to comment on what had been discussed in the meeting.