Big North East employer Hitachi calls for Britain to stay in the EU

The firm will employ more than 700 people at its Durham factory, with many more jobs created in its supply chain

Hitachi’s £82m train building factory in County Durham was opened by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor George Osborne last year in what was one of the largest inward investments in the North East since the opening of the Nissan plant in Sunderland.

A statement released by the firm said: “Hitachi, like other multinationals, invested in the UK in order to access the whole of the EU market, and unimpeded access to the EU market is fundamental for our position in the UK.

“We have made significant investments here across many of our businesses, in part, because of the UK’s strong economic fundamentals, rich access to talent and position as a springboard to other European or EU markets.

“A potential departure from the EU creates uncertainty in terms of economics, trade, skills and talent – particularly in manufacturing, and would affect the stability that we need for continued investment and long-term growth.

“We believe that a strong and united Europe with the UK in a single, open market will be better for Europe’s prosperity, and therefore for Hitachi’s business. So, whilst we recognise that this is a decision for UK voters, Hitachi hopes the referendum will result in a positive decision to remain in the EU.”

Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield, said: “One of the main reasons Hitachi Rail Europe has invested in Newton Aycliffe is because the UK is part of the EU.

“This gives Hitachi Rail Europe access to the European market and it wants to export rail stock to Europe. I want nothing to jeopardise that and one of the reasons I believe we should vote to stay in the EU is the thousands of jobs in the North East reliant on Hitachi.”

Supporting this notion is Charlie Gibbs, director of Gateshead-based company Steampunk Gin, after pro-EU campaigners said the drinks industry would be damaged by Brexit.

Mr Gibbs said: “As a small gin producer based in the North East of England we see the growth of our business inextricably linked to the European market.

“Our export ambitions would be severely curtailed if we did not have access to the European market under the current trading arrangements. In addition, we source much of our raw materials from Europe including the botanicals which go into the gin itself, plus the glass bottles and stoppers for example.

“Without the reciprocal VAT arrangements, we would see our base costs increasing by around 19% and we would have to pass these on up the supply chain which ultimately consumers would pay more for our gin.”

Regional chairman of Business for Britain North East, Andy Saunders said: “The Government is a major customer of Hitachi, and we should ask whether these comments are the result of pressure from Downing Street. Only a day ago Nissan announced a further £22m investment in its Sunderland plant.

“Contrary to what Hitachi say, access to European markets is not hinged on Britain’s membership of the EU. If we Vote Leave we will negotiate new trade agreements with countries such as Germany, France and Spain – who need us to trade with them. The UK is the EU’s largest export partner and it’s overwhelmingly in individual countries’ interests to build free trade deals with us.

“There is more uncertainty in voting to remain as the EU will continue to ratchet up its stranglehold on our economic potential – preventing us forging trade links with lucrative markets outside of the EU.”

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