Airbus today condemned the ‘disgraceful’ chaos surrounding Brexit and warned it could leave Britain if a no deal threatened its international competitiveness.
The aerospace giant, which employs 14,000 people in Britain, warned it could have to make ‘potentially very harmful decisions’ about its UK operations in a no deal.
It warned there were ‘plenty of countries’ that would welcome the firm with open arms if Britain became inhospitable to international companies.
Airbus’s move came as the Dutch government revealed it was in talks with 250 UK firms about luring them to the Netherlands.
Fears are rising about the future of British manufacturing amid wobbles in the car industry and after Dyson announced it was relocating its headquarters to Singapore.
Airbus boss Tom Enders (file) today condemned the ‘disgraceful’ chaos surrounding Brexit and warned it could leave Britain if a no deal threatened its international competitiveness
The aerospace giant, which employs 14,000 people in Britain (including at Broughton, Wales, pictured), warned it could have to make ‘potentially very harmful decisions’ about its UK operations in a no deal
Tom Enders, chief executive of Airbus, said: ‘In a global economy the UK no longer has the capability to go it alone. Major aerospace projects are multinational affairs.
‘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.
‘We, along with many of our peers, have repeatedly called for clarity, but we still have no idea what is really going on here.’
Chancellor Philip Hammond is preparing to tell leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos later that post-Brexit Britain will still be a ‘great place to do business’.
However, Mr Enders said Britain’s multibillion-pound aerospace sector, a world-leader for a century, is ‘standing at a precipice’.
‘Brexit is threatening to destroy a century of development based on education, research and human capital,’ he said.
‘If there’s a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the UK.’
Airbus’s UK operations generate around £6 billion of turnover annually, making it the country’s largest aerospace company.
At its 25 sites it builds components for a broad spectrum of products from planes to helicopters and satellites.
‘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,’ Mr Enders said.
‘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 redirect future investments in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) is preparing to tell leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos later that post-Brexit Britain will still be a ‘great place to do business’
‘And, make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.’
The chief executive of aerospace trade body ADS, Paul Everitt, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mr Enders’s message was being ‘repeated consistently by the overwhelming majority of businesses in our sector and others up and down the country’.
Mr Everitt warned: ‘The introduction of any kind of customs activity or delays at the borders fundamentally undermines our competitiveness and adds cost.
‘Added to that, we all operate in a consistent regulatory environment. Significant changes or differences in that regulatory environment drive cost and disruption through our businesses.’
Airbus’s facilities in Broughton and Filton were ‘a core part of our industry and what has been driving growth in our industry consistently over the last couple of decades’, helping make the UK aerospace sector the largest in Europe, he said.
‘It’s not a question that Tom and Airbus are going to pull up their plant next week, but the reality is that future investment in that plant depends on us being globally competitive,’ said Mr Everitt.
Airbus’s move came as Mark Rutte’s (pictured last week in Amsterdam) Dutch government revealed it was in talks with 250 UK firms about luring them to the Netherlands
‘When you introduce a new product, there are a list of countries out there who are actively bidding for that work. Our issues and concerns are that cost implications in the short term will drive the long-term conditions that will undermine our competitiveness.’
Michiel Bakhuizen, spokesman for the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, said: ‘Every new arrival of a business, big or small, is a success. The number of businesses we are in contact with for a possible arrival is growing.
‘At the start of 2017 it was 80, at the start of 2018 150, and now it’s more than 250.
‘This increase will continue and it’s not strange, because there is great uncertainty at the moment in Britain. And if there is one thing that’s bad for business, it’s uncertainty.’