Airbus has flatly denied any change in its position regarding the UK’s planned withdrawal from the European Union, after a report emerged which has been widely interpreted as a shift in its plans.
The airframer has been vocal in its opposition to ‘Brexit’ as well as the UK government’s lack of progress in providing certainty to companies which, like Airbus, depend on just-in-time manufacturing and smooth international integration processes.
“We’re aware that an online article has suggested [Airbus’s] stance on Brexit may have changed,” says the airframer's UK operation.
“It hasn’t. We are still seeking clarity, while preparing for a no-deal Brexit.”
While it has not specifically identified the article or publication, social media has been widely pointing to apparent comments from chief executive Guillaume Faury during Airbus’s recent Innovation Days event in Toulouse on 21 May.
Faury is quoted as saying that the UK is a “very important pillar” and that “we want to stay in the UK”, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
Following an agreed delay to the initial withdrawal date of 29 March, the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October. But the UK parliament has yet to ratify the negotiated withdrawal agreement, else the country will exit the EU without a post-Brexit deal in place.
Faury’s immediate predecessor, Tom Enders, had signalled that Airbus would be prepared to cut back investment in the UK and even transfer work away from UK facilities if the uncertainty and fallout from Brexit threatened costly disruption to its operations.
While Faury’s words from the Toulouse event have been interpreted on social media – particularly by those in support of Brexit – as a backpedalling from this position, Airbus has flatly denied any reversal.
Enders had insisted in January that Airbus was not afraid of taking tough action to preserve its interests if Brexit proved a disorderly matter, warning that the airframer was “not dependent” on the UK.
Airbus notably produces wings for its commercial aircraft range at its UK plant in Broughton. But Enders stated that there were “plenty of countries” which would line up for the opportunity to manufacture the company’s wings.