Up until now there has been a great deal of rhetoric over what European companies will do if Britain does not secure a solid and clear Brexit deal when it exits the European Union on March 29 next year. That has now changed with Airbus, the second-largest global plane manufacturer making it clear that there is every likelihood it will make no further investment in U.K. suppliers and will close down its own U.K.-based manufacturing facilities.
Currently, Airbus has over 4,000 suppliers based in the UK and directly employs over 14,000 people at 25 sites. One of the ‘jewels in the British crown’ is the airbus plant in Wales which is responsible for manufacturing wings for the A320, A330/340, A350 and A380 passenger planes. It is also working on developing the “next generation” of aircraft wings.
Airbus has made it clear in its Brexit “risk assessment” published last Thursday that if the U.K. left the single market and also the customs union without any agreed transition, this would likely “lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production.” The company added that: “This scenario would force Airbus to reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country.”
The customs union brings together the EU’s 28 members in a duty-free area, in which they pay the same rate of duty on non-EU goods and the U.K.’s prime minister, Theresa May, has ruled out staying in the customs union.
According to Tom Williams, the chief operating officer of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, in “any scenario”, Brexit had “severe negative consequences” for the UK aerospace industry and Airbus in particular. Without a deal, he added, Airbus believed the impact on its UK operations could be “significant”.
“Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’ future in the UK.”
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Airbus’ UK boss, Katherine Bennett, stated that: “this is not project fear, this is dawning reality”.