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The production line was stopped at 11:00 BST on Thursday so workers could be told about the decision [Image: Getty Images].

The production line was stopped at 11:00 BST on Thursday so workers could be told about the decision [Image: Getty Images].

Here’s another chance for Theresa May’s Tories to tie themselves in knots.

The car manufacturer Nissan announced yesterday (Thursday, October 28) that it will remain in the UK post-Brexit, meaning more than 7,000 jobs at its Sunderland plant are safe and it will manufacture two new models there.

But was it offered a ‘sweetheart deal’ to stay? Business Secretary Greg Clark says no.

“There’s no cheque book. I don’t have a cheque book,” he said on the BBC’s Question Time.

“The important thing is that they know this is a country in which they can have confidence they can invest. That was the assurance and the understanding they had and they have invested their money.”

Was he lying, though? According to The Guardian, “Greg Clark reportedly gave a ‘last-minute written promise’ to Nissan to protect the company from the consequences of Brexit, in a pledge that will fuel Labour’s demand for the government to publish any private guarantees.”

And fellow Tory Anna Soubry indicated her own conviction that a ‘sweetener’ had been applied. The Telegraph reported: “She said she had met Nissan on June 30, a week after the Brexit vote, and that the company expressed ‘profound concerns’ about tariffs.

“She told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: ‘They didn’t give the detail of what they wanted, they made it very clear that without a guarantee that they would not be subject to tariffs or if they were subject to tariffs the Government would do something to mitigate the damage of tariffs… that without that, they told me, my understanding actually was that they would go to Renault because they clearly had the capacity there.’

“On the assurances that helped Nissan decide to build its next-generation Qashqai, and add production of the new X-Trail model, at its Sunderland plant, Ms Soubry said: ‘I don’t know what it is but I would be very surprised if there hasn’t been some sort of guarantee to mitigate any tariffs should they be imposed.'”

Just to muddy the waters, though, it seems Nissan never had any intention to leave – according to right-wing gossip-monger Guido Fawkes’ blog, which stated in May: “Nissan are on the record saying they won’t leave Britain post-Brexit and have been at pains not to scaremonger about the referendum. So they were a bit put out by Anna Soubry using their reception in parliament last night to preach doom on their behalf. The event had nothing to do with Europe, but Soubs misjudged the tone and told guests how leaving the EU will cause a ‘disaster for manufacturing’ and result in ‘an immediate 10% tariff on Nissan cars’.”

Now she pops up again, again talking about tariffs. And we have no guarantee that Nissan meant what it said before the referendum; it could have been angling for a ‘sweetener’, even then.

And a ‘quiet’ deal would be handy for the government, if it didn’t want to promise a mitigation deal for every Tom, Dick or Harriet who is now facing a 15% tariff on imports/exports.

Bizarrely, some commenters on Twitter were all right with that:

So there you have it. If you don’t get a ‘sweetener’ deal from Theresa May and Greg Clark, then your firm probably isn’t considered “good for the economy”.

In fact, it’s more likely to be because Mrs May and Mr Clark simply don’t want to pay out compensation to any old pleb who is likely to suffer because of their party’s silly referendum stunt.

That’s nice to know, isn’t it?