Nissan has warned its Sunderland plant with 7,000 staff will be 'unsustainable' if the UK fails to strike a Brexit trade deal with Europe - days after saying it would survive a global restructuring.
Thousands of workers in the North East thought there jobs were secure last week, after the car giant announced the factory would survive a string of series of cost-cutting measures that close the Japanese firm's Barcelona facility.
A Nissan spokesman said at the time that 'Sunderland (remained) an important part of our plans for the European business.'
Nissan's Sunderland factory opened in 1984, but there are fears it could be 'unsustainable' unless Britain reaches a trade a deal with the EU
But in an interview with the BBC, Nissan's global chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta warned the company would not be able to stand by its commitment to the Sunderland plant if the UK left the European Union without a trade deal that enabled tariff-free EU access.
Mr Gupta said: 'You know we are the number one carmaker in the UK and we want to continue. We are committed.
'Having said that, if we are not getting the current tariffs, it's not our intention but the business will not be sustainable.
'That's what everybody has to understand.'
The Nissan factory in Sunderland opened in April 1984 and has produced millions of cars over the past 26 years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been adamant he will not seek any extension to the current Brexit transition period which ends on December 31, despite warnings the coronavirus outbreak means it will be impossible to conclude a new free trade agreement with the EU by that date.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier issued an ultimatum, saying there would not be an 'agreement at any cost'.
The Nissan factory in Sunderland has produced millions of vehicles since it opened in the 1980s
He said: 'We remember very clearly the text which we negotiated with Boris Johnson. And we just want to see that complied with. To the letter... And if that doesn't happen, there will be no agreement.'
In response, a UK source close to the negotiations said yesterday: 'We expect next week's round to be constructive and keep the process on track. But then we are going to need things to move forward faster.
'The EU seems to have finally understood we aren't going to move on fundamentals, so they now need to think quickly about how they can find an agreement that reflects this reality.