Airbus’ chief executive has blasting the government’s handling of Brexit as a “disgrace” and warned a no deal scenario could force the company from the UK.
Tom Enders said Airbus – which employs 14,000 people in the UK as well as supporting 110,000 jobs in the supply chain – could leave if the government crashes Britain out of the EU with no deal and trading barriers are erected.
In response to Enders’ comments, Unite said ministers and MPs must stop gambling with the futures of UK workers and their families by taking no deal off the table.
The union also warned that it would fight firms trying to use Brexit as an excuse to cut jobs, pay, terms or conditions.
In a video message, Enders told people not to listen to “Brexiteers’ madness” that the company was too well established in the UK to leave, warning that “plenty of countries” want to be locations for its manufacturing bases.
He said: “In a global economy the UK no longer has the capability to go it alone. Major aerospace projects are multinational affairs.
“It is a disgrace that, more than two years after the result of the 2016 referendum, businesses are still unable to plan properly for the future.
“We, along with many of our peers, have repeatedly called for clarity, but we still have no idea what is really going on here.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said no deal “fantasists” should pay heed to Enders’ warning, describing Airbus as a “powerhouse” of UK manufacturing and a central support to local and regional economies across the country.
“The consequences of a no deal Brexit on the future of the UK’s world leading aerospace sector, its integrated supply chain and wider manufacturing would be catastrophic,” Turner said.
“Ministers and MPs must stop gambling with the futures of UK workers and their families. They now must do what is best for the country by taking a no deal, hard Brexit off the table and securing the tariff-free, frictionless trade with Europe through a permanent customs union on which our manufacturing success depends.”
Enders’ comments caused particularly concern in Wales, where many Airbus jobs are based.
Unite Wales regional secretary Peter Hughes warned the firm was “absolutely central” to the future prosperity of the country.
“Manufacturing is the bedrock upon which the Welsh economy is built; its protection must now take the highest priority within the UK government’s Brexit strategy,” he said.
“Surely today’s warning from Airbus must be the point at which Theresa May finally wakes up to the grave danger facing many of our key employers and removes no-deal as a possible Brexit outcome.
“If she doesn’t do this and we do indeed leave with no deal, the ramifications for Welsh manufacturing, and our economy, would be truly cataclysmic.”