THIS weekend’s confirmation that Nissan will no longer be building its new X-Trail model at its plant in Sunderland is a huge blow to North-East manufacturing and the wider regional economy.

Unite’s national officer for the automotive sector, Steve Bush, says he has had assurances that job levels at Sunderland will remain unchanged, but the long-term picture at the plant is now considerably more uncertain. Nissan employs around 16,000 people in the region, and we desperately hope this weekend’s events do not adversely affect the long-term viability of the firm’s flagship factory in Sunderland.

There are a number of factors buffeting the UK car industry at the moment, from a slump in diesel sales to a tightening of the regulations relating to emissions.

Then, of course, there is Brexit, and while the Prime Minister attempted to provide some assurances to the automotive sector in the autumn, Nissan chairman Gianluca de Ficchy has admitted the UK’s departure from the European Union was a major influence on the decision to build the X-Trail in Japan.

Whatever happens between now and the UK’s planned withdrawal date at the end of March, the North-East’s manufacturing sector is clearly going to be in for a rough ride. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, things will almost certainly become even more difficult.

Nissan’s decision to scale back in Sunderland is bitterly disappointing – let us hope it is an isolated incident rather than a precursor for what else is to come.