Airbus chief executive Tom Enders has reiterated, in strong terms, that the airframer is prepared to take tough action to secure its operations if the UK careers into a disorderly exit from the European Union.
Enders warns that Airbus is “not dependent on the UK” for its future, indicating that transfer of wing production is not unrealistic, and adding: “Airbus will survive and thrive, whatever the outcome.”
He condemns the continued uncertainty over the UK’s arrangements as a “disgrace” and describes as “madness” any suggestion, by those backing the UK’s exit from the EU, that the scale of Airbus’s large production operation assures its UK presence.
“They are wrong,” he states.
“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’.”
Enders is due to step down in April, just after the UK’s withdrawal on 29 March, to be succeeded by Guillaume Faury.
But he insists: “Make no mistake – there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.
“In a global economy, the UK no longer has the capability to go it alone. Major aerospace projects are multinational affairs.”
Imminent departure from the EU is leaving the UK aerospace industry on a “precipice”, he says, which is “threatening to destroy” a legacy of pioneering UK involvement in the sector.
“If there is a ‘no-deal Brexit’, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the UK,” says Enders.
He urges the UK leadership to deliver a “pragmatic” withdrawal agreement, if it genuinely believes that leaving the EU is the best option for the country.