BAE's statement that it plans to sell its stake in Airbus had - after all the speculation and hints of recent months - all the surprise value of a Britney Spears divorce announcement. BAE has been spiritually moving home across the Atlantic since the formation of Airbus proper in 2001 changed its status from owner of Airbus's British factories to a mere 20% shareholder in the unified European airframer.
I don't think it will have any effect on the UK's aerospace industry, either in the short or long term. If anything, it could bolster the UK's punching power within Airbus. EADS is desperate to be accepted as a prime contractor by the Ministry of Defence, but - despite its plush offices in the Strand, its significant industrial footprint in the UK and the impressive Robin Southwell banging the drum for it as UK chief executive - it has always struggled for credibility. Every UK-based media outlet - including Flight International - refers to EADS as the "Franco-German company". EADS's UK communications guys wince when they read that. People, even high up in Whitehall, think of it as a Continental European company with a sales office in London. Fact.
EADS talks about the 13,000 Airbus staff in the UK as part of its contribution to the UK aerospace industrial base. But, even though their pay slips have have had the Airbus name on them for five years, your average British opinion-former still thinks of them as "British Aerospace employees". Once Airbus becomes a 100% subsidiary of EADS, the "Franco-German" giant's status in the UK becomes greatly enhanced. If it buys out BAE's stake in MBDA (both own 37.5% - Finmeccanica has the remaining 25%), something else that has a good chance of happening, its UK footprint gets even bigger.
My colleague Max Kingsley-Jones disagrees. He thinks that, without BAE, Airbus will have no incentive to keep particularly lower-value jobs in the UK. If the bigwigs in Toulouse want to cut costs, which jobs are they going to axe: the ones in Broughton or the ones in Hamburg, Getafe or Blagnac which have powerful political lobbies fighting their corner? Does he have a point?