The president of the UK's aerospace, defence and security trade body has urged politicians to "stop playing bloody politics" and "get on with" agreeing terms for the country's withdrawal from the European Union.
Colin Smith, a former director of engineering and technology at Rolls-Royce, who is serving a two-year term at ADS, told guests at the organisation's annual dinner in London on 23 January that the industry was "spending a lot of unnecessary time and money on contingency planning" in case the UK exits without a deal on 31 March. "Time is not on our side," he warned.
ADS, which campaigned against Brexit, has since argued that the UK should seek to retain a close relationship with the customs union and single market to spare the aerospace sector from skills shortages and disruption to supply chains.
Smith spoke hours before Airbus chief executive Tom Enders warned that he could not guarantee the UK's continued role in Airbus wing production if the country failed to agree a Brexit deal. UK prime minister Theresa May's effort to secure parliamentary backing for her proposed withdrawal agreement was overwhelmingly defeated earlier this month.
The 1,000 guests arriving at the Grosvenor House hotel in Park Lane faced a noisy protest by anti-arms trade campaigners. Keynote speaker Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems, said he wanted to "say to those outside that I am proud of my company and proud the role my industry plays in creating one million jobs in the UK".
He also urged the sector to tackle skills shortages of engineers and other specialists by encouraging more diversity and "doing more to resonate with millennials".