LONDON -- The U.K. promised up to 80 million pounds ($104 million at current rates) in support to Nissan Motor to persuade the Japanese automaker to build new sport utility vehicles here after the country voted to leave the European Union, according to a letter released by the government Monday.
The previously undisclosed October 2016 offer was conditioned on Nissan producing the new Qashqai and X-Trail models at its Sunderland plant in northern England. The company announced roughly a week after the letter was sent that it would do so but canceled the X-Trail plan Sunday.
The government had previously kept the contents confidential, citing their commercial sensitivity to Nissan. Now, with the plans called off, Business Secretary Greg Clark has disclosed the letter and announced that Nissan would have to resubmit a bid for government support.
Clark's letter to then-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn offers up to 80 million pounds in support to Nissan, in part to assist the company with research and development. The government ultimately decided to extend 61 million pounds in aid. Clark said Monday in the House of Commons that Nissan received 2.6 million pounds of the funds.
The letter says the British government "will seek to maintain the closest possible economic relationship between the UK and our European partners," regardless of "the UK's future relationship with the EU."
"In any circumstances, the Government will ensure that the UK continues to be one of the most competitive locations for automotive and other advanced manufacturing," the letter continues.
Explaining its decision to build the SUVs on British soil, Nissan cited "the U.K. government's commitment to ensure that the Sunderland plant remains competitive."
The government drew immediate pushback for concealing the assistance. "Any assurances provided to Nissan, especially ones that may cost the taxpayer money, should be put in the public domain immediately," said Nicky Morgan, chair of the House of Commons' Treasury Committee, in a statement.