Britain’s booming aviation industry risks being seriously undermined if Theresa May quits the EU without securing a trade deal, Airbus UK’s leading executive signaled today.
In a stark message to MPs this morning, Airbus UK’s chief operating officer Tom Williams said industry rivals in the USA would be “more than delighted” if the UK fell back on World Trade Organisation rules post-Brexit.
He also warned that the company – which employs 15,000 people in the UK - could be damaged by a sudden end to free movement rules.
Last week, the Prime Minster said “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain” as she urged European leaders not to punish the UK for leaving the EU.
Speaking before the Treasury Select Committee, Williams predicted that Airbus’s main rivals, the Seattle-based Boeing, would welcome the “no deal” option.
He said: “I’m sure there would be many people in Seattle or in Washington that would be more than delighted to see this scenario played out because they will take every opportunity to try and undermine the success of Airbus.
“I take the view that whatever is being decided in Washington will also be done very much with what is good for Seattle so we enter into a dangerous phase.”
As well as sites in North Wales and Bristol, the company that owns Airbus also has operations across Europe.
Williams warned that an end to free movement of workers across the EU risked the company’s ability to compete with its rivals.
He said: “We’ve got a lot of Brits working in Europe and a lot of French and Germans working here in the UK, so for us as an international company, that’s what we need to have - a fairly seamless process.
He added: “Anything that disrupts that model will create inefficiency and could affect our long-term competitiveness.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting, who backed Remain and sits on the Treasury Committee, believes the Government should take Williams’s views seriously.
He told the Huff Post UK: “Here is the voice of a very senior figure in one of our leading companies, in one of our core industries blowing a hole in the fanciful rhetoric of the government that no deal and falling back on WTO rules is somehow good for Britain.”
Airbus UK manufactures wings for commercial planes from sites in Filton near Bristol, and Broughton, north Wales.
As well as its direct employees, “a further 100,000 jobs are supported indirectly through an extended supply chain of 1,000 companies,” according to its website.