Aerospace giant Airbus could slash thousands of UK jobs and move wing-building operations out of the country in the event of a no-deal Brexit, its CEO has warned.
Tom Enders predicted “potentially very harmful decisions” for the firm's British presence, although he acknowledged there would be no immediate change in its industrial presence as he issued his sharpest warning yet that future jobs are at risk.
“The UK’s aerospace sector now stands at the precipice,” Enders said in a video released on Airbus’ website.
“If there is a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the UK.”
He added: “Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness that because of the huge plants here, will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong. Of course, it’s not possible for us 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 warned that the UK no longer has the capability to “go it alone” amid multinational major aerospace projects, adding it was a “disgrace” that businesses still could not make future plans because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Airbus, the world’s second-largest aerospace group, employs some 14,000 in the UK and more than 100,000 in jobs supported by UK programs, generating roughly £6bn of turnover every year, Enders said.
Adding that the aerospace industry is set to grow 5% every year, he said Airbus, headquartered in the Netherlands, does not depend on the UK for its future.
“Airbus will survive and thrive whatever the outcome...the question is: does the UK wish to be a part of that future success?
“If you’re really sure that Brexit is the best for Britain, come together and draw up a pragmatic withdrawal agreement that allows for an orderly Brexit.”