Matthew Lynn Matthew Lynn

What happened to Brexit meaning the end of Nissan’s Sunderland plant?

Cars outside the Nissan plant, Sunderland (photo: Getty)

It would have to close down its factories. Thousands of job would be lost. Suppliers would be abandoned, and the local economy would be shattered for a generation.

It was sometimes a little hard to work out why a few hardcore Remainers cared quite so much about Nissan. Its range of mid-market, family SUVs were not the kind of cars they would usually be seen dead in. But somehow the company became emblematic of the whole bitter debate about how the British economy would suffer if we left the European Union. If we weren’t in the Single Market, we were told again and again, the business was doomed.

So today’s news from the company is, to put it mildly, slightly surprising. It turns out that Nissan is indeed restructuring its European manufacturing operations as it struggles with declining sales. But its Barcelona plant is closing, not the one in Sunderland. In fact, production may be ramped up in Britain. There is even some speculation its partner Renault might shift some production here as well (although we can just imagine what the French government, with a 15 per cent stake, will have to say about that).

This certainly isn’t how we were told things would go. We were told again and again that car manufacturing would be destroyed by Brexit. Exports into Europe would face tariffs of up to 10 per cent. Just-in-time supply chains would collapse as it took three weeks to clear the paperwork on a couple of spark plugs. Skilled workers wouldn’t be available anymore. The Nissan plant could close if we voted Leave,

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