Airbus chief Tom Enders warned Thursday that a no-deal Brexit could prompt the European aerospace giant to make “very harmful decisions” for Britain, and branded the government’s handling a “disgrace”.
The aircraft manufacturer currently employs 14,000 people in Britain, including sites at Filton in southwest England and Broughton in north Wales, designing and manufacturing wings. Another 110,000 British jobs are linked with the group’s supply chains.
“If there is a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the UK,” Enders warned in a video published on the group’s website.
Airbus, which has repeatedly stated that Brexit could mean pulling investment out of Britain, also expressed deep frustration over Prime Minister Theresa May’s faltering Brexit strategy.
‘It is a disgrace’
“It is a disgrace that more than two years after the result of the 2016 referendum, businesses are still unable to plan properly for the future,” added Enders.
“We, along with many of our peers, have repeatedly called for clarity.
“But we still have no idea what is really going on here.“
British lawmakers last week roundly rejected the divorce terms May agreed with Brussels, raising fresh fears that Britain could crash out with no deal on March 29.
The nation’s powerful CBI business lobby group has also expressed dismay that May had not offered a clearer way forward.
“The global market for aviation is growing at five percent each year. But we are not dependent on the UK for our future,” added Enders on Thursday.
“Airbus will survive and thrive whatever the outcome.
“The question is: does the UK wish to be part of that future success?
“If you are really sure that Brexit is the best for Britain, come together and deliver a pragmatic withdrawal agreement that allows for an orderly Brexit.“
May has promised a debate and votes on the way forward on January 29, with MPs mulling a long list of options including a second referendum or delaying the March 29 divorce date.
Enders meanwhile urged Britons not to listen to “Brexiteers’ madness” that Airbus would always be in Britain.
“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.
“They are wrong.
“Of course it is not possible to pick up and move our large UK factories to other parts of the world immediately.
“However, aerospace is a long-term business and we could be forced to re-direct 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.
The Airbus warning caps a torrid week for corporate Britain after Japanese electronics titan Sony decided to switch European headquarters to the Netherlands, while UK appliance maker Dyson revealed it would move its base to Singapore in 2019.
The Dutch government revealed Wednesday that officials are in contact with more than 250 companies about a possible post-Brexit move.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, speaking to AFP at Davos on Wednesday, nonetheless insisted that Britain remains “open for business” and is still an “attractive destination” for foreign direct investment.