Any final exit by the U.K. from the European Union that worsens business conditions through increased tariffs would threaten the sustainability of Nissan Motor Co.'s U.K. operations, the Japanese carmaker's chief operating officer (COO) has cautioned.
Nissan, which employs 7,000 people at the U.K.'s biggest auto plant in Sunderland, northeastern England, urged in June for an "orderly, balanced Brexit".
Its latest warning, however, comes as the EU cautions the U.K. that it has fewer than 10 days left to secure a deal to govern trade from next year.
"If it happens without any sustainable business case obviously it is not a question of Sunderland or not Sunderland, obviously our U.K. business will not be sustainable; that's it," Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta told Reuters on Wednesday.
Almost 11 months after it formally quit the union, Britain and the EU have still not worked out a deal to facilitate nearly $1 trillion in annual trade following a transition period that has been keeping custom rules in place.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned his top ministers that a trade agreement is far from certain, but that the country would thrive with, or without, a deal.
Nissan said in March it would push ahead with a £52 million ($69 million) expansion at Sunderland to build its new Qashqai sports utility vehicle.
When it announced the plan in 2016, Nissan, which builds its Leaf electric cars there, said the U.K. had provided reassurances Brexit would not affect its competitiveness.
But tariffs resulting from a no-deal Brexit would raise costs for Nissan, while any delay in parts supply from overseas due to new customs checks could slow production.
Gupta said Nissan was not seeking compensation from the U.K. for costs incurred from any no-deal Brexit, contradicting press reports that it and Toyota Motor Corp. would do so.
"We are absolutely not thinking that and we are not discussing it," he said.
On a separate plan announced by Johnson to move up a U.K. ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2030 from 2035, the Nissan executive said his company was ready to respond.
"That is not only the U.K.'s transition plan, every country is talking about electrification. We are ready."
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