The head of Airbus has torn into the Government’s handling of Brexit, branding it a “disgrace” and warning that the company could pull out of the UK if its ability to compete on the global stage is harmed by a no-deal departure.
Tom Enders, chief executive of the aerospace giant, said a no-deal Brexit could force Airbus, which employs more than 14,000 people in the UK with around 110,000 more jobs connected in supply chains, to make “potentially very harmful decisions” about its UK operations.
Urging Britons not to listen to “Brexiteers’ madness” that the company was too established in the UK to leave, the business leader warned there are “plenty of countries” that would love to build its plane parts.
“In a global economy the UK no longer has the capability to go it alone. Major aerospace projects are multinational affairs,” Mr Enders said in a video message.
“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 on Thursday 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.
“And, make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.”