The business minister, Greg Clark, has travelled to Paris for crunch talks with Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of Vauxhall-owner PSA, amid growing fears that the French firm will close the Ellesmere Port car plant.
Clark is expected to voice concern at 250 fresh job losses announced this week, which took the total to 650 since PSA bought Opel-Vauxhall for £1.9bn last year, pledging to turn it around without closures or staff cuts.
As Clark headed to Paris, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Britain’s largest trade union Unite, warned that the union would ensure PSA’s UK sales were “finished for good” if the plant is closed.
PSA, which also owns Peugeot and Citroën, has reduced operations at Ellesmere Port to restore profitability.
It has still not decided whether to build new models at the Cheshire plant, which employs 1,800 of its 4,500 UK workforce to build the Astra, amid uncertainty about the future of Britain’s trading relationship with the European Union.
Clark, whose meeting with Tavares was scheduled before the latest cuts, is expected to reiterate a promise to PSA that the government will go to great lengths to cushion the automotive industry from any Brexit-related impact.
He is thought to have made the same four promises that were instrumental in persuading Nissan to expand its Sunderland operations.
Clark told the Japanese firm that the government would ensure more suppliers are based in the UK, fund research in electric vehicles, offer support for training staff and make sure the Brexit deal leaves auto firms “free and unencumbered”.
McCluskey warned Tavares that the union “will not allow them to continue to enjoy their healthy share of the UK market” if Ellesmere Port is closed.
I’ve just told @bbcmerseyside that I will make it crystal clear to the PSA boss Carlos Tavares that if there is any attempt to close the Ellsemere Port Vauxhall plant we will make sure their market in the UK is finished for good. #strongunion
“I’m going to France in the next fortnight to meet with Carlos Tavares to tell him that we will not allow PSA to close a healthy UK plant,” McCluskey said on Twitter. “I will make it crystal clear … that if there is any attempt to close the Ellesmere Port Vauxhall plant we will make sure their market in the UK is finished for good,” he said.