A NORTH-EAST politician is seeking urgent answers from government after car giant Nissan announced it was scrapping the production of its X-Trail model at its Sunderland base.

The firm sent a letter to workers yesterday confirming rumours circulating in the media on Saturday that the next-generation SUV model would no longer be coming to the plant as planned were true.

Unite said it was "seriously concerned" by the decision to relocate production to Kyushu, Japan, while Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, vowed to take her own concerns to government ministers today.

She said: "This is a great loss of future investment in Sunderland and I am sure that many people will share my huge disappointment and concern at this news."

The decision is another huge blow to the UK's car industry which has been warning for years about the impact of Brexit uncertainty on top of other problems such as a slump in diesel sales.

Nissan chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said in the letter that much had changed since the Japanese firm announced plans to build a new Qashqai and X-Trail in the UK in October 2016.

He said: "X-Trail was already going to be made in Kyushu, but there was a good business case for bringing production to Europe as well.

"Since that time, as you know, the environment for the car industry in Europe has changed dramatically.

"To meet the changing emissions regulations we've had to invest much more in new powertrains for our future models like X-Trail."

Mr de Ficcy added the volume forecasts for X-Trail in Europe had reduced but acknowledged Brexit had played a role.

"[Yesterday's] announcement will be interpreted by a lot of people as a decision related to Brexit," he added.

"We have taken this decision for the business reasons I've explained, but clearly the uncertainty around the UK's future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future."

The letter also stated Nissan had a taskforce in place to consider all "possible scenarios" and "potential impact" as the UK's departure from the EU gets closer.

It read: "As a responsible business with 16,000 employees in the region, I want you to know that we are preparing across all functions, and with our supply chain, for anything that might impact our current business model."

Mr de Fichhy said Nissan was still investing heavily in new technologies and powertrains for the next generation of vehicles in its Sunderland plant.

He added: "We appreciate this will be disappointing for our UK team and partners.

"Our workforce in Sunderland has our full confidence, and will continue to benefit from the investment planned for Juke and Qashqai."

Labelling the announcement as a blow to Sunderland and the "whole North-East economy", Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson, said she believed it was the "clearest signal yet" of damage caused to the UK car industry by the uncertainty around Brexit.

She said: "The government’s proposed deal does nothing to end the pressure on workers and businesses, leaving all the major questions about our future trading relationship unanswered."

The politician urged Theresa May to "change course" and put her deal back to the public.

Unite's acting national officer for the automotive sector Steve Bush said the news was "very disappointing" but reassured members job levels at the plant would remain the same.

He added: "However, we remain seriously concerned though that the apprenticeships and additional jobs that come with future investment and which this community so desperately needs will be lost."