The prospect of an economically devastating hard Brexit is becoming “a cold hard reality” under the Tories, Unite warned following the news that Airbus will consider leaving the country if there is no deal.
The aerospace giant said it may leave the UK if there is a hard Brexit – a move that would risk around 14,000 Airbus jobs as well tens of thousands more in the supply chain.
Airbus, which has devisions across the EU, said it will consider closing its UK operations if there is no transition deal that includes single market and customs union membership.
Although a transition arrangement is planned following Britain’s exit from the EU in March next year, Theresa May has insisted the UK will not be part of either framework over the longterm and there are serious concerns that the Tories’ shambolic handling of the negotiations could result in no deal.
Airbus said the warning was not part of “project fear” but a “dawning reality” for the firm.
Chief operating officer Tom Williams said: “Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’ future in the UK.”
The company’s Brexit “risk assessment”, published yesterday (June 21), said crashing out of EU next March would “lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production”.
Frictionless trade is vital to Airbus and the wider UK manufacturing sector, with components crossing borders multiple times on a daily basis.
Regulatory agreements between the European Aviation Safety Agency and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and other regulatory bodies are also needed to ensure that planes manufactured with UK-made content can be licensed for use.
The current planned transition, which would end in December 2020, is also too short to make changes to the supply chain, Airbus said.
Because of this the firm will “refrain from extending” its UK supplier base – which currently stands at more than 4,000 suppliers – and “carefully monitor new investments”.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister will listen to Airbus’ concerns, however Unite warned that a “cliff edge” Brexit is becoming a “cold hard reality” that is getting closer by the day.
The union said that May was putting party interests ahead of the interests of manufacturing communities with her Brexit red lines, which were set to appease far right Conservative MPs intent on severing all connections with the EU.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Airbus supports 110,000 jobs in the UK. Its stark warnings of the uncertainty facing the aerospace industry cannot be dismissed by ministers and ‘hard Brexiteers’.”
“Theresa May needs to ask herself whether she is willing to lay waste to vibrant manufacturing communities on the altar of Conservative party interests and Tory infighting.
“If the answer is no, then the government needs to provide certainty over the UK’s relationship with the European Union to unlock investment by securing frictionless trade and a regulatory framework agreement for the aerospace industry as a matter of urgency.”
He added: “Workers will be increasingly worried about their jobs and their futures. Unite will continue to defend their interests and their livelihoods. We will be in close dialogue with Airbus and continue to put pressure on the government to secure jobs and the future of the UK aerospace industry.”