Nigel Farage has been told he is “living in cloud cuckoo land” if he thinks he knows better than Nissan on the EU jobs risk.
Nissan’s Japanese owners have already warned that Britain leaving the EU could create an obstacle to future foreign investment in the UK, but Mr Farage told The Journal that voters should not be swayed by “carefully worded” interventions from Japan.
That bold claim was last night challenged by Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls on a visit to the North East.
He said both the UKIP leader and the Conservative party were “living in cloud cuckoo land” if they thought they could ignore the views of a major investor in British jobs.
Mr Farage said: “Labour doesn’t work in the real world and doesn’t understand money, which is why it has always bankrupted the nation. We buy 20 million bottles of champagne here in the UK, will we stop buying it if we leave the EU? No, or course not, we’re going to go on doing business.
“Trade doesn’t need politics. This jobs-scare story, Cleggy thought in the TV debates he would get me on this, didn’t even puncture me.
“I saw the Nissan comments, and thought, they said 12 years ago if Britain doesn’t join the Euro we will leave. They haven’t. What was said this time was very carefully worded. There was a suggestion that Nissan would review its business model.
“Well, of course it will, businesses do that all the time, even at a change of Government. Nissan has already made its investment in Sunderland. Is it going to kiss goodbye to all that? Of course not.”
Nissan’s chief operating officer, Toshiyuki Shiga, has said the firm believes Britain’s continued membership of the EU is “very important”.
Speaking from the company’s Japan HQ last year, Mr Shiga said: “The UK is part of the European Union, [that] is very important. From the foreign investor point of view I hope that the UK will remain as an EU member.
“If the UK – after departing from the EU – is making unique regulations, unique standards, this would become an obstacle. If the EU side [put] import duty from the UK, that would be a big obstacle.”
Last night Mr Balls said voters wanted to know about the help they would get meeting the cost-of-living rather than seeing jobs put at risk.
He said: “I think everyone knows Europe has to reform, and the Euro hasn’t worked, it is a good thing we did not join the Euro.
“But the idea that we would be better off by walking away from one of the largest markets in the whole world and cut ourselves off is cloud cuckoo land, that’s not the real world.
“When Nissan say that they are investing in the North East and bringing in jobs and new technologies because they want to sell into that single market is something we have to take very seriously. We are talking about global firms that do not have to be here, they are here in Sunderland because of those links and when they say that without them they might walk away they mean it.”