THE region's largest private employer supports Britain staying in the EU. 

Nissan, which employs about 6,000 people at its Sunderland factory and supports thousands more jobs across the North-East supply chain, believed it made the most sense for jobs, trade and costs for the UK to stay within the European Union.

While the company will not be pro-actively supporting any political campaign in the run up to the EU referendum, Nissan Chairman and Chief executive Carlos Ghosn said: "We are a global business with a strong presence in Europe. We have a rich heritage in the UK with 30 years of manufacturing and engineering presence, and remain committed to building and engineering cars in the country. Last year we produced more than 475,000 vehicles in the UK – 80 percent of which are exported.

"Our preference as a business is, of course, that the UK stays within Europe - it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs. For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns.

"However, this is ultimately a matter for the British people to decide.

"While we remain committed to our existing investment decisions, we will not speculate on the outcome nor what would happen in either scenario."

He added: "We obviously want the Nissan UK plant and engineering centre to remain as competitive as possible when compared with other global entities, and each future investment opportunity will be taken on a case by case basis, just as it is now."

His comments come as bosses at more than a third of Britain's biggest businesses have shown support for the campaign for the country to remain in the European Union.

Asda, BT, Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher and Vodafone chiefs backed a letter warning of the risks to the economy of quitting the 28-member bloc.

Chairmen or chief executives of 36 FTSE 100 companies said a Brexit would "deter investment and threaten jobs" but the total number of falls short of the 80 or 50 that it had previously been suggested would sign.

In a letter to The Times, they wrote: "Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.

"We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment and threaten jobs. It would put the economy at risk."

The letter includes some notable absences, such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Barclays but the chief executives of Heathrow and Gatwick have signed up.
Among the signatories are Tory donors and figures who have accepted government roles under Mr Cameron's premiership, according to The Times.

Andy Saunders, chairman of Business for Britain North-East, which is lobbying for Bexit, said: “It’s SME’s, like my own, that want to take back control of our trade powers and cut the burden of regulations. SMEs can’t afford the millions that big business spends on lobbying Brussels. Large businesses can handle the complexities of working with the Brussels bureaucracy, but SMEs don’t have the resources.

“Regaining control of employment law, health and safety and trade negotiations will put the North-East in a strong position for growth. It’s only a leave vote that will give us the means to create real jobs growth, wages growth, and investment into the UK.”