The CEO of Airbus has a message for British “decision-makers” who buy into the idea that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t be so bad: tens of thousands of jobs would go, and people really should be scared.
“The U.K.’s aerospace sector now stands at the precipice,” Tom Enders said in a video message clearly aimed at lawmakers considering the next step. “Brexit is threatening to destroy a century of development based on education, research and human capital. If there’s a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the U.K., which would be ironic, considering that back in the mid-1990s it was U.K. industry that were the architects of greater European aerospace integration.”
“Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here,” Enders warned. “They are wrong.”
Unless the U.K. Parliament backs Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated Brexit agreement with the EU — or manages to delay the Brexit date, or cancels Brexit — the country will after March 29th suddenly revert to World Trade Organization rules. This involves tariffs that don’t directly affect planes and their components. However, a sudden, disorderly switch of rules seems certain to clog ports and hammer supply chains.
Enders described it as a “disgrace that, more than two years after the result of the 2016 referendum, businesses are still unable to plan properly for the future.”
There is as yet no majority in Parliament for any plan that will allow the U.K. to avoid No Deal, and some members of Parliament continue to argue that a no-deal Brexit would be manageable and that those highlighting its risks are engaging in “Project Fear.”
Airbus’s U.K. factories at Filton and Broughton, transferred to the company by BAE Systems 18 years ago, make wings for all of Airbus’s models and design their fuel systems. They employ some 14,000 people and, Enders said in his message, they also support a further 110,000 jobs in the U.K.
The CEO said Boeing’s biggest rival would obviously not be able to suddenly move the factories elsewhere, but: “Aerospace is a long-term business and we could be forced to redirect future investments in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
“Make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft,” he added.
Other countries are indeed actively luring businesses away from the U.K. as Brexit looms. Sony’s European headquarters are leaving London for Amsterdam — and the Dutch are in talks with another 250 companies too, the smaller country’s investment agency has revealed. Dyson’s off to Singapore, despite founder James Dyson being a big Brexit advocate, and the British ferry giant P&O is re-registering its entire fleet under the Cypriot flag.