Airbus chief Tom Enders on Thursday warned the European aerospace giant could make “very harmful decisions” for Britain if it leaves the European Union without a deal, while Ford said it could cost them $800 million.
Enders branded the government’s handling of Brexit a “disgrace” and suggested 14,000 jobs at its sites designing and manufacturing wings at Filton in southwest England and Broughton in north Wales were under threat.
“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.
US car giant Ford later warned that a no-deal scenario “would severely impact Ford’s operations in the UK and across Europe, which potentially could result in an $800 million headwind in 2019,” it said.
It blamed “border friction, deteriorating economic outlook, coupled with likely further sterling devaluation, and the introduction of WTO tariffs.”
Fellow carmaker Jaguar Land Rover also said in a statement it would pause production in Britain for a week after the March 29 departure date “due to potential Brexit disruption,” whatever the outcome.
‘It is a disgrace’
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 that more than two years after the result of the 2016 referendum, businesses are still unable to plan properly for the future,” Enders said.
“We still have no idea what is really going on here.”
The multinational giant’s relationship with the European Union has itself been under scrutiny recently, with the World Trade Organization last year ruling the firm received improper subsidies from the bloc after the United States argued it had given $22 billion in state aid to help launch the A380 and A350 jets.
Katherine Bennett, senior vice president of Airbus in the UK, later told Sky News that the British government had asked the firm to “make clear the potential impact of a no deal” and “we’re happy to do that.”
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.
Meanwhile, Bank of England chief Mark Carney told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday that there were still “serious logistical issues” to be solved in the event of a no-deal.
“Businesses are doing what they can, but in many cases they can’t do it,” he said.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde also weighed in, telling French radio RTL that a no-deal would be a “catastrophe” which could lead to the “disappearance of entire business sectors” in Britain.
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.
But EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Wednesday that a parliamentary move to block a no-deal Brexit would fail unless MPs could swing behind an alternative agreement.
“There appears to be a majority in the Commons to oppose a no-deal but opposing a no-deal will not stop a no-deal from happening” on the official March 29 departure date, he said.
“To stop ‘no deal’, a positive majority for another solution will need to emerge.”
Enders meanwhile urged Britons not to listen to Brexiteers saying that multinationals would not leave.
“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.
“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.”
The Airbus warning caps a torrid week for corporate Britain after Japanese electronics titan Sony decided to switch its 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.