UKIP leaders have rubbished claims Nissan could halt its investment in Britain if it left the European Union.
Speaking in Tynemouth at his party’s North East conference, UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall said the comments made by the carmaker’s chief executive Carlos Ghosn were complete nonsense.
Mr Ghosn, head at the firm which employs 6,500 people at its Sunderland plant, said the company would “reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future” if Britain left the EU.
But Mr Nuttall said the comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, claiming if Britain left the European Union Nissan would still prosper.
He added: “It’s absolute nonsense. In 1999, Nissan warned that if Britain didn’t join the euro, that would hurt investment. We didn’t join the euro and Nissan are still there.
“I would take what Nissan are saying with a pinch of salt.
“If we left the European Union, a company like Nissan would not suffer. It would continue to prosper.”
Currently UKIP has no MEPs in the North East and the party is campaigning to gain its first-ever regional representatives during next year’s European Parliament elections.
The region’s three seats are currently shared between Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
As part of its campaign one of the party’s ideas is to scrap the Government’s high-speed HS2 rail project, instead using the money to improve transport in the region, including widening the A1 and A69 roads.
Mr Nuttall, MEP for North West England, said: “I’m almost certain that we will win at least one seat in the North. If you look at the polls and where UKIP is nationally, it is inconceivable that we won’t win at least one seat in the region. We can bring a lot of common sense to politics. People here in general don’t seem to be listened to by the main three parties.
“In terms of transport, we have a number of ideas. Newcastle is one of the most important and biggest cities in the country, yet it does not have a proper motorway leading in and out of it. The A1 and the A69 should be widened.”
Among the speakers at the conference last week, which drew crowds of around 300 people, was Major Chester Potts, chairman of the Fusiliers’ Association of the North East.
Major Potts is leading a protest against Government plans to axe the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which recruits heavily in the region.
He said: “To disband the Fusiliers would hit this area very hard, not just economically but also from a historic point of view.
“We know how to fight, especially when the odds are against us.
“The support from members of the public has been immense. Nearly 100,000 signatures have been collected from the public and the campaign is ongoing.
“Our message is: ‘Don’t mess with us’. We will do whatever we can to save one of the finest regiments in the British Army.”