Airbus is making plans to leave the UK in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, which could lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
The company employs 14,000 people directly at several sites including Bristol, Stevenage, Portsmouth and north Wales, but 110,000 jobs are also vulnerable at firms supplying the aircraft maker.
In one of the most significant interventions by a major manufacturer since the referendum two years ago, it published a “risk assessment” on its website saying it would “reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country” if Britain left the single market and customs union without a transition agreement.
It also said the current planned transition period to 2020 was too short for businesses to reorganise supply chains.
Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said: “In any scenario, Brexit has severe negative consequences for the UK aerospace industry and Airbus in particular.
“Therefore, immediate mitigation measures would need to be accelerated.
“While Airbus understands that the political process must go on, as a responsible business we require immediate details on the pragmatic steps that should be taken to operate competitively.
“Without these, Airbus believes that the impacts on our UK operations could be significant.
“We have sought to highlight our concerns over the past 12 months, without success.
“Far from ‘project fear’, this is a dawning reality for Airbus.
“Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’s future in the UK.”
The report has drawn swift reaction from politicians, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeting: “If proof was needed that the PM’s Brexit red lines need to be abandoned (and fast), this is it.”
If Airbus did leave the UK, production would be moved to the US, China or elsewhere in Europe.
The risk assessment paints a gloomy picture for UK high-tech manufacturing if agreement cannot be reached with the EU.
It says: “A no-deal Brexit must be avoided, as it would force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments in the UK and at large its dependency on the UK.
“Given the ‘no-deal/hard Brexit’ uncertainties, the company’s dependence on and investment in the flagship Wing Of Tomorrow programme would also have to be revisited, and corresponding key competencies grown outside the UK.
“This extremely negative outcome for Airbus would be catastrophic.
“It would impair our ability to benefit from highly qualified British resources, it would also severely undermine UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry, while developing high-value jobs and competencies.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said the UK had made “significant progress” in negotiations to “to ensure trade remains as free and frictionless as possible, including in the aerospace sector”.
They added: “We’re confident of getting a good deal that is mutually beneficial.
“Given the good progress that we are continuing to make in the negotiations we do not expect a no-deal scenario to arise.
“The government is working closely with companies to understand their concerns ahead of leaving the EU and alongside industry will invest almost £4 billion by 2026 to ensure the UK remains a world leader in civil aerospace.”
“Credit Sky News”