Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury admits to using "different words" to his predecessor, Tom Enders, regarding the company's attitude towards the UK's exit from the European Union, but he is similarly warning of "absolutely huge" risks of a 'no deal' scenario.
Faury spoke to FlightGlobal at the Paris air show, three weeks after an article quoting him circulated on social media and was widely interpreted as his signalling that Airbus intended to remain in the UK regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
The article has even been cited by outspoken member of parliament Mark Francois, vice-chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, who publicly claimed on 6 June that Faury had "announced a welcome shift in Airbus's policy towards Brexit" and that the airframer was "now resolved to remain in the UK", contrasting Faury's apparent position with that of Enders'.
But Faury has robustly countered, telling FlightGlobal: "I might be using different words than Tom [Enders] – Tom is Tom, Guillaume is Guillaume – but basically the company position is the same.
"We tried to make very clear what the consequence would have been of a no-deal Brexit – I mean a 'hard' Brexit by accident – by the end of March.
"We had to prepare ourselves, because it was a risk that was not completely off the table. And this has been painful and costly for us – and, in the end, unnecessary."
With the resignation of UK prime minister Theresa May, the uncertainty over who will take over, and the UK due to leave the EU at the end of October, the risk is again emerging, says Faury.
"We are again in a situation where a no-deal Brexit can happen by the end of October. And we think this would be really bad for the UK and EU," he says.
"The consequences on industry – and not only our industry, not only Airbus, on many industries – the risk is absolutely huge.
"This is the risk of the no-deal as such…we need to understand what would be the long-term agreement, the long-term situation between the UK and the EU.
"And depending on how it's going to turn [out], and whether the UK remains a good place for doing business for Airbus, we'll have to take our decisions – and potentially this would lead to decisions that would be adverse for the UK.
"This being said, this is not what we want. We'd like to obtain a situation in the long-term that, first, gives clarity and, second, enables us to continue to work as we have today."
Faury says the UK is a "very good place to work" and that Airbus is "satisfied" with its current UK set-up and the competitiveness of its UK sites which, critically, include the wing plant at Broughton.
"That's the complexity of the situation," says Faury. "We need clarity. We need certainty. And we need a short-term appropriate way of managing Brexit, a good transition, and we need a long-term deal that provides competitiveness in the UK. If it's not the case, we'll have to take decisions."
Source: Cirium Dashboard