When will businesses’ Brexit warnings be taken seriously?

by Denis MacShane | 26.04.2018

One by one the firms that gave Britain its global economic reputation are now telling the truth.

Tom Enders, the CEO of Airbus, which employs 15,000 in Britain to make wings for its aircraft, has said he cannot guarantee future investment in the UK after Brexit.

There is no immediate threat to production but the Brexit future was bleak, he said at the Berlin Aviation Show. “I do not see that we kind of pick up and move somewhere else. But of course for future activities, future production, future development, that is open for discussion.”

Airbus is also worried about the UK leaving the EU’s Galileo satellite project where Airbus does the ground control work in Portsmouth. If the UK insists on going it alone, Airbus says it will have to move that work to an EU member state.

The day before, Rolls-Royce said it was looking at moving part of its operation to Germany if Brexit goes ahead.

The iconically British FTSE100 firm, which employs 22,300 mainly skilled workers and engineers, said it was considering moving its design approval process for its big jet engines to Germany. Rolls Royce euphemistically called this a “technical measure”.

The approval of aircraft safety design is controlled by the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) which is an integral part of the EU Single Market structure, ultimately supervised by the European Court of Justice.

Outside the EU British aircraft makers would face challenges obtaining EASA certificates that aircraft or, in the case of Rolls-Royce, aircraft engines met the highest standards.

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Now the Japanese ambassador in London, Koji Tsuruoka, says that the more than 1,000 Japanese firms that have set up in Britain since the 1980s – about 40% of all Japanese investment in Europe – are considering their future.

“They are currently considering and thinking and watching very closely what they need to do. That is why they are not investing additionally today.

“The reason that many of those companies have come is that this is the best gateway to Europe,” he said. “If that is in danger, if that is no longer sustainable, of course they will have to look at what they will have to do.”

By the cautious standards of Japanese diplomacy this is the equivalent of the Japanese ambassador standing naked outside Parliament with a loudhailer shouting at MPs to turn back from Brexit before it is too late.

But are MPs listening and taking seriously these measured statements? In September 1938 the Daily Express had a front-page headline assuring readers: “Britain will not be involved in a European war this year or next year either.” Today the same paper and other Brexit cheerleading editors keep telling us Brexit will be just wonderful.

Are any of them listening to Rolls-Royce, Airbus or the government of Japan? All were given the solemn pledge that investing in Britain opened the gate to the EU single market and customs union. Brexit will break that pledge.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “When will businesses’ Brexit warnings be taken seriously?”

  • Funnily, Mark Field, Minister of State at the FO has written a very upbeat article in today’s City AM about future trade prospects with Japan. However, on reading the article more closely, he actually seems to be upbeat about nothing substantive at all. Looks like he got the diplomatic run-around while the Japanese Ambassador was telling it like it is over here. Is this yet another example of the Brexit fanatics only hearing what they themselves say?

  • People are listening but these businesses are too timid. They need to publicise deadlines by which they will implement their plans if there is less access to the single market than they can live with. If they are not willing to do that in an effort to assist the government to make wise choices, especially in view of its paranoia and fear, they might as well just leave now, because, without that, an awful Brexit is going to happen.

    The only real way to attempt to stop this catastrophe more generally is a second referendum on the deal. Why Britain thinks it cannot do this, when other European nations have, is beyond me. I suppose we are so incredibly special. If we vote to leave with or without the deal, so be it. You can only tempt a man on the ledge to come in the window, if he insists on jumping, at least you’ve done what you could. And I suspect the rest of us, would then put it behind us and get on with our lives, here or elsewhere.

  • As a common sense type of person I believe in the old saying, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the Bush”, so keep hold of the one perfectly sound “bird” and don’t risk losing it for a slim chance of “two in the Bush”.

  • James, quite. Things haven’t been too good in the UK for a long time, and any real money coming in over the past generation got distributed unevenly. So I don’t blame the disadvantaged for voting for a ‘change’……particularly as they were lied to and misled by a few millionaires and the media.

    But we are running out of time to reverse our so called government’s direction, and the timidity of all the people who were……..and still are, against Brexit is disappointing.
    Liam Fox is very quiet about his brave new world. When you look at the stats, why would we believe that it’s easier to sell things to countries like Australia/New Zealand/Canada/India/South Africa…….who all run a deficit, rather than the EU who have a huge positive balance of payments history?