Airbus won’t be only casualty of PM’s time-wasting

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 22.06.2018

As Theresa May fiddles, industry burns.

Take today’s news that Airbus could quit the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit. The aerospace giant employs 14,000 people in well-paid, high skill roles. It supports another 110,000 jobs in its supply chain, working with 4,000 suppliers including Rolls Royce and BAE. It also generates £1.7bn in tax revenue.

Airbus is a world leader in its field. It is, in short, the sort of company the government should be dying to keep in our country.

And yet it is now releasing press statements attempting to explain to the prime minister why no deal would be so damaging. For a company intricately linked to European supply chains and dependent on EU regulatory approval, crashing out would be a death sentence for its UK operations. It’s warning of a multi-billion pound impact.

No deal would also mean no transition period to cushion the blow of Brexit, as the EU made clear this week. Even if we get a transition until end-2020, as Theresa May wants, Airbus says that is far too short to address all the issues. So it’s going to freeze investment until things are clear.

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This hits upon the crux of the matter. It’s not just that we’ll end up with a bad deal. May’s policy of kicking the can means death by a thousand cuts – and not just for Airbus.

The prime minister doesn’t have a plan. Her warring Cabinet can’t agree what it wants. So next week’s EU summit will be a waste of time.

Even if May gets a deal with her Cabinet at her Chequers lock-in in two weeks, she won’t have a deal with the EU. That will only be possible if she capitulates further on her “red lines” – something that could cause yet more battles in the Cabinet.

Nothing will be agreed before the summer. By the autumn, industry could be panicking.

It’s not just Airbus saying it may pull the ripcord. Freight companies are warning of “gridlock on roads and shortages in shops”, with a no deal “catastrophe” looming on the horizon. Economic growth has come to a virtual standstill. Foreign investment has plummeted.

The former Brexit minister George Bridges memorably warned that we could be walking a “gangplank into thin air”. Fortunately, there is still time to turn around – starting tomorrow, with the People’s Vote march.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Airbus won’t be only casualty of PM’s time-wasting”

  • This “get your act together or we are off” warning from Airbus must be taken seriously and is an indication of the perilous situation we are in as an industrial nation if we leave the EU without a deal that looks pretty much like staying in. Theresa May has, I believe, agreed to stay in the European Aviation Safety Authority which means we will be subject to EU law and come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. OOP’s there goes taking back control and a big bit of the “Brexit Dividend”. Sorry Boris but reality is beginning to intrude on fantasy.

  • Can’t help but feel that Airbus have compromised themselves somewhat here and not helped the cause. Given that that the eu broke WTO rules with billions of pounds of funding Aibuses statements like this will only ever appear one sided therefore degrading their position.
    If remain are to gain any ground it must be based on solid rational statements creating a positive position, not one that can be accused of sleaze.

  • Government minister Jeremy Hunt considers it “inappropriate” for Airbus to be making threats toabandon their UK operations due to Brexit. Perhaps he would prefer it, if they just started announcing closures and redundancies without any forewarning.