by Atul Hatwal
Imagine for a moment you are Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
The man entrusted with securing Brexit on the best possible terms for the 27 EU states.
The man whose job it is to stop those truculent Brits going a la carte on the EU set menu and establishing a precedent where leaving the union means that cake can be had and simultaneously eaten with no question of anyone having to touch their greens.
You are the man who had a very interesting lunchtime last Thursday.
That is when the British government announced that Nissan would be building its new cars in the UK, something which infuriated a number of the EU states who had hoped they would win this investment. States that will be represented by Barnier in the Brexit negotiation.
As a very senior EU official and seasoned French politician, Michel Barnier will have been in contact with Nissan and a variety of international businesses, through official and unofficial channels.
He will know that Nissan had drawn some very clear red lines before making such a commitment.
He will have been baffled by the visits of the UK secretary of state for business, Greg Clark, to Japan for the same reason that most of Whitehall was perplexed.
What on earth could Clark give the Japanese manufacturer?
Specifically, Nissan wanted assurances on the continuation of country of origin rules, which mean parts sourced from around the world but assembled in an EU state do not incur tariffs; that tariffs would not be levied on the finished car in the EU and non-tariff barriers, such as forcing importers to register each car up a mountain, at a portakabin that is staffed once a week, which is only accessible by dirt track, would not be put in place.
Thanks to the efforts of the British government, somehow, Nissan have been convinced to make a multi-million pound investment. It’s clear that what they were told did not amount to warm words. Some very hard and definite commitments were given (with a clear implication that non-delivery by Britain will nix the deal).
The British press have focused on perceived promises from the UK government to compensate Nissan financially if tariffs are imposed, but Michel Barnier will have known better.