So Carlos Ghosn has said that Nissan will reconsider its investment in the UK if Britain leaves the European Union. Or, to be more precise, what he actually said was, "If anything has to change, we need to reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future."
That’s what companies do all the time. His comments have been portrayed, especially by the BBC, as moreorless saying: 'Nissan will quit the UK and the country will lose 6500 jobs. So, whatever you do, don’t vote Tory because prime minister David Cameron has promised a public vote on EU membership in 2017, if the Conservatives win the next general election in 2015.'
Actually, building more Nissans here has never been a given. At one time, long ago, building the second-generation Nissan Micra was in the air, especially when an internal memo leaked from the Invest in Britain Bureau warning of looming plant closures if the UK didn't adopt the euro common currency. I wonder how that panned out? As it was, the British government ended up paying some £40m in various subsidies to keep production here.
Mr Ghosn, however, does have form on this. Back in 2004, speaking to journalists at the Detroit Motor Show, he said: "If the UK is in the euro system it is a no-brainer… We will stay."
So, as The Clash memorably thrashed, “Should they stay or should they go?
The simple fact is that, in business, you buy stuff because you want it. Perhaps because it is well made, practical, stylish and seats your family in safety and comfort, just like the all-new Qashqai. The fact that lovely people in the North East screw it together is utterly irrelevant. You don’t care whether the EU, or the euro, is involved.
Big corporations love the EU and the euro because it makes their existence easier - not yours.
Even if we do pull out of the EU, we may find that Nissan still hangs around because the Sunderland factory is so efficient and profitable. And if the UK left the EU, I reckon that we might actually create rather more than 6000 jobs by fostering a more competitive environment free from the shackles of regulation.