Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 49 Number 2, February 9, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers Forum

Japanese Monopoly Nissan Seeks to Manipulate Brexit for its Own Ends

Nissan X-Trail

Various monopolies, particularly in the car industry, have recently shown that they are willing to shift their political stances, whenever it suits, in their efforts to gain markets and compete. Nissan is the latest.

Several carmakers, including Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and Vauxhall have talked of disruption to their supply chains in the event of a no-deal Brexit and have acted in their own ways.

Nissan is willing to carry out its plan to solely build the X-Trail SUV in Japan, despite receiving huge government and taxpayers' handouts to support investment. The company has blatantly torn up agreements with the government. Consequently, it will have to reapply for nearly £60m of support after reneging on an agreement to build its X-Trail SUV in Washington, Sunderland. Nissan had originally asked for £80m, reduced to £61m after a review by an independent advisory committee.

Not only has the company gained enormously since the 1980s, when the plant was built, to the present, from the cumulative amount of value it has claimed from the labour it has exploited, but it also has demanded free funding from the rest of the working class who pay tax.

Companies are using their property rights in this country, which trump public right, to export capital or invest in plant and labour wherever they want. The excuse by Nissan was that it was a "commercial decision", pointing to the lack of market in Europe for diesel cars, an excuse backed by various political representatives in parliament. It shows that the decision-making process is not only influenced, but controlled, by monopoly capital. It exposes the farce of government of the people and for the people, where working people either have no say over the direction the economy is taking, or on "Brexit", where the contradictions and chaos caused by the factions in parliament are seeking to further drag the people into the political arena to help sort out their economic and political crises.

A letter from the government to Nissan, written in 2016, states that the Japanese carmaker would only get the money if it made the car in the Britain. So far Nissan has received £2.6m, which it is now liable to pay back. Already the company is squabbling over receipt of the rest, which it deems is their right, and holds the sword of Damocles over the workers' heads regarding the rest of its investments.

Nissan production line, Sunderland

Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said the X-Trail would have created 741 UK jobs. Qashqai, Juke and Leaf models are also produced in Sunderland, where the company employs 7,000 workers.

Nissan is part-owned by France's Renault and could move production to France in future to avoid any post-Brexit EU tariffs. In what amounts to blackmail, Nissan demanded that the EU and Britain's future trading relationship with it should be resolved. European chairman of Nissan, Gianluca de Ficchy, said that "the continued uncertainty around the UK's future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future".

Nissan's Sunderland plant opened in 1986. It is widely understood that the only reason Nissan invested in Britain in the past was its access to Europe, and the free money it received, since being enticed by Thatcher in the 1980s with handouts, while not being tariffed if producing outside. In other words, it might as well produce elsewhere.

Nissan's switching of its production to Japan may have more to do with the recent entry into force of the EU-Japan free-trade agreement which will also slash tariffs for vehicle imports into the bloc over a seven-year phase-in period. That makes it easier for Nissan to manufacture X-Trails in Kyushu, Japan, and ship them to the EU. By claiming that this move is because of Brexit or diesel-gate suits them to pursue their interests in both Britain and the EU.

The government tried to justify its stand after Business Minister Richard Harrington told the BBC that Nissan would get the £61m support payment anyway. "It's to do with research and development", he said in Newcastle. "This was nothing to do with the X-Trail."

Meanwhile, Greg Clerk expressed the current sycophantic position by saying, "I believe their advice should be listened to and acted upon."

Another contradiction has arisen for the monopoly. In Britain, diesels that fail to meet emissions standards face a levy and the EU and Britain have announced bans on both new diesel and petrol vehicles in future. Many companies have overcome emissions problems on diesels and the market is said to be rising again. The results of sales of new diesel cars in Britain had tumbled by 30% in 2018, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

In a letter to workers, Nissan said that continued Brexit uncertainty is not helping firms to "plan for the future". Unite's acting national officer for the car industry, Steve Bush, said: "This is very disappointing news for Sunderland and the North East and reflects the serious challenges facing the entire UK auto sector." He added that the union remained "seriously concerned" that "the apprenticeships and additional jobs that come with future investment and which this community so desperately needs will be lost".


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