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Airbus 'not bluffing' over dire Brexit warnings: chief

Airbus commercial aircraft president Guillaume Faury insists the airframer is "not bluffing" in its warnings over the uncertainty surrounding the UK's future trade relationship with the European Union.

Faury pointed out, during a briefing in London, that achieving a three-month protection buffer for aircraft production – given that the UK's EU withdrawal date is nine months away – will require suppliers to increase parts output by a third.

"[But] most suppliers are already at maximum production, because of the ramp-up," he says.

Faury states that Airbus has to prepare for a possible UK exit from the EU without a suitable trade agreement – potentially resulting in a production halt.

He points out that, without an agreement over certification, the airframer will not be allowed to install parts. The airframer is looking at alternatives to UK suppliers but Faury admits that they are not easy to find, especially given the criteria of competency and capacity.

"We're not bluffing," he says. "You bluff when there's a benefit to bluffing."

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders tells FlightGlobal that the company is not intending to initiate any sudden and drastic pull-out from the UK. "We're not going to pack everything up," he says, stressing that the immediate considerations would centre on future investment.

But he also says that maintaining UK production over the longer term is a "different story", and that – if it proves necessary – eventual transfer of wing production out of the UK is "possible and doable".

Enders says that he believes the UK needs to stay in the European customs union, and remain a member of key regulatory organisations – including both the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Court of Justice – in order to "minimise damage" to business.

Without EASA certification, or an equivalent, in place, the supply chain could "fall apart", he says. Enders describes this possibility as "very troubling" and, while it amounts to a "worst-case scenario", he states: "It's not a scenario we can exclude."

Even though Airbus is taking mitigating measures to try to protect its operations, Enders says: "Brexit, soft or hard, will be damaging for industry and damaging for the UK."

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