This is about car ‘welfare’, the massive subsidies the UK government gives the automobile industry so we can buy that ideal car. ‘Privatisation’ means the opposite of a company able to stand on its own feet without government help. It means they get taxpayer’s money.
The sight of rough, tough, call their bluff, Theresa May giving in to blackmail from Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan car makers, was nauseas to watch.
She made a desperate attempt to convince us she has saved a great industry for the nation. Had she not, that much heralded Norf of England rejuvenator policy would be in tatters.
Smarter than the average bear market
Ghosn, a man a great deal smarter than May and capable of gloating mightily, announced the ‘deal’ to the world’s press, and how relieved he is that the UK government will give his company billions to cover European tariffs imposed in the wake of leaving Europe.
The Japanese ambassador, Koji Tsuruoka was just as quick as Ghosn to stoke the fire. He announced Theresa May’s “remarkable” personal intervention. No one noticed Nissan has pulled off a bankrupt bank scam. It let us know Nissan is too big to fail.
The darling buddies of May
May popped out from her Downing Street lodgings to greet assembled hacks and chortle her version of ‘rejoice, rejoice’, in the quiet whisper of her role model, met by cries of, “How much will your bloody impetuous promise cost the nation?” She did not answer.
Ever since then the Tory party has refused to tell the nation what we will have to pay to keep Sunderland employees in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. To everybody’s surprise Downing Street denies a sweetheart deal exists. We’re asked to accept ‘we love Nissan’ did the trick.
No sooner had the Downing Street cat left, food wrapped in a headscarf tied to the end of a stick, when the Japanese ambassador made the obvious obvious.
The ambassador sticks in the knife
Koji Tsuruoka said that Nissan would not necessarily stay in the north-east of England if it were unable to make a profit. “Any tariffs imposed on imported car parts and exported finished models as a result of Brexit could affect car manufacturers’ bottom line very severely”, In effect, the taxpayer will continue subsidising Nissan so long as tariffs apply.
He also implied that Nissan can squander subsidies; free to leave the UK if its bottom line isn’t big enough – a case of, does my bottom line look big enough in these subsidies?
May is snookered. Whatever she hadn’t quite promised she had better make good. Naturally, Scotland’s taxes will help float Nissan And we get not a dime out of it.
In the land of the blind
In Sunderland, where over sixty per cent of residents voted for Britain to leave the EU, many never thought Nissan would leave, even when Ghosn threatened that the company would pull out if he were unable to extract “compensation” from the government. Think about that. A private company demands money with menaces from an elected government and the government pays up, and some of the people paying are the workers themselves.
It is truly fascinating to see mature men deny reality because they are British. Councillor John Kelly, a leave voter, emphasised the benefits – his ward includes the Nissan plant. He exuded true grit. “I really cringed at [Ghosn’s threats to leave]. It was such an open attempt at intimidation. To be honest we folk said: ‘Tain’t going to happen.’ This plant is so efficient, it’s a world leader.” Wee man tells global company you stay where you are!
The ambassador twists the knife
No sooner had the councillor finished his eulogy to naivety when up spoke the Japanese ambassador a second time. “That doesn’t mean Nissan will stay forever. It is all subject to the profitability of the business.”
Tsuruoka’s concern is for the UK to secure tariff-free trade. He fears tariffs on both sides, the UK and Europe.“If you put artificial barriers along the way then by definition it’s going to be costly and inefficient. That is something the car manufacturers here in the UK are quite concerned [about].”
Car manufacturers rely on EU-wide supply chains. Each Nissan model comprises about 20,000 parts, most of which do not come from the UK, a fact that questions what those extra ‘40,000’ jobs comprise of.
Me too, me too!
And as sure as a squirrel buries a nut, other car manufacturers ditched their image of independence and profit bearers. They asked for similar welfare payments. Buggin’s turn was heard all over the land. The most vociferous was Britain’s very own much loved Jaguar Cars. Only one week earlier it was proud to show the world its first ever electric car, a highly desirable, innovative SUV, the current petrol SUV its biggest seller. (See my recent essay Losing the I-PACE Race.)
The ‘10,000’ additional jobs is Jaguar’s claim, welcomed with nary a query from the British press, a group of second-rate auto hacks who still think Jaguar is British owned, and the spirit of Sir William Lyons lives on.
The key word was ‘could‘ create 10,000 new jobs.
Ghosn’s counterpart at Jaguar Land Rover is Dr Ralf Speth. A friend to the something-for-nothing society, he responded to Nissan’s overtures by saying his company would have to “realign its thinking” on investment if Nissan was to get any kind of compensation.
Speth refused to confirm the widely published 10,000 jobs figure, (by an unquestioning right-wing auto press) but said that future electric vehicles ‘could’ be built in the Midlands providing the UK government invests in infrastructure improvements that make it favourable for a new EV-focused manufacturing facility to be established. The sting in the tail was swift in arriving.
The FT reports that Speth would like to see an government investment of £450m to create its new facility. Cut welfare benefits, starve the English NHS of investment, prop up wealthy car manufacturers. We can always compensate by cutting welfare payments for the sick and the disabled.
Welcome to the something for nothing society.
The people of Sunderland voted overwhelmingly to leave Europe.
They shouldn’t expect sympathy.