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Business Secretary says UK government is working to save Vauxhall car plant

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LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·3-min read
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A Peugeot car is seen in the car park of the Vauxhall car plant in Ellesmere Port, Britain, January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Stellantis is a merger of the Vauxhall and Opel brands and Peugeot and Citroen owner PSA Group, as well as the FiatChrysler Group. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK’s newly appointed business secretary, has said that the UK government is working to save Vauxhall’s car plant at Ellesmere Port.

More than 1,000 jobs are currently at stake as Vauxhall’s parent company Stellantis decides the fate of the Cheshire plant in the coming weeks.

Ellesmere Port currently produces the old model of the Vauxhall Astra. However, Stellantis said it would be superseded next year with the new model produced at Ruesselsheim in Germany and at another plant, yet to be named.

Stellantis is a merger of the Vauxhall and Opel brands and Peugeot and Citroen owner PSA Group (UG.PA), as well as the FiatChrysler Group (FCA.MI).

Kwarteng told Sky News in an interview on Friday that he would encourage Stellantis to commit to the UK.

“Many of the car companies I speak to are adapting to electric vehicle production and I'm sure that we can engage with, I know we are engaging with Vauxhall to deal with the sensitive situation in Ellesmere Port,” he said.

“I will do everything I can, with the prime minister's backing and the government's backing, to make sure we get the right results for Ellesmere Port just as Nissan (7201.T) have invested and given us a vote of confidence, by promoting Sunderland and by saying they're committed to Sunderland as a long-term investment.”

READ MORE: Fiat Chrysler and PSA merge to become Stellantis

Earlier this week Nissan temporarily paused production at its Sunderland factory but committed to the region long-term on the back of the trade deal between the UK and EU - a move that safeguards 6,000 jobs.

Prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday morning said the decision was “a great vote of confidence in the UK.”

Nissan plans to ramp up its presence in the UK and source more electric batteries here to comply with EU rules. Under the trade deal terms, 55% of a product must be made in the UK to qualify for zero tariffs and zero quota status.

Nissan currently produces 40kw batteries here in the UK for its electric vehicles but the more powerful 62kw batteries are sourced from America. Under plans being discussed, production would move to the UK

Kwarteng said: “It's a great win for the people of Sunderland, it's a great win for the United Kingdom, and I'm not sure that this would necessarily have happened if we had been in the EU.”

The business secretary was appointed to his role earlier this month after Alok Sharma stepped down to lead the United Nations COP26 climate change summit.

The mini reshuffle meant that Kwarteng, who has been Conservative MP for Spelthorne since 2010, is the first black secretary of state. He is currently the only black politician in the Cabinet.

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