Airbus boss right to criticise ‘no deal’ Brexit

Today, the boss of Airbus criticised the government’s handling of Brexit as a “disgrace” which meant it still couldn’t plan properly, even with just two months to go. In addition, he warned that Airbus might have to take decisions with the potential to be “very harmful” for the UK.

He is right – the government has mismanaged Brexit from the start. First, Cameron called the referendum with a view to settling disputes in his own party: simultaneously setting Britain on a disastrous path and spectacularly failing to unite his party. Second, May triggered the leaving process before being clear of the type of Brexit she wanted, or that could gain the support of the House of Commons. Every day since has been another mis-step towards the situation we’re in now.

And Labour have done no better. Just as May hasn’t looked to build consensus across Parliament and in the country – or sought a solution that took into account the narrowness of the referendum result – neither has Corbyn. On the biggest issue of the day, both the Government and Opposition are letting people down.

Today’s unprecedented warnings from Tom Enders echo those made during the referendum campaign, which were dismissed as “Project Fear”. However, they also follow news that James Dyson (a supporter of Brexit) is moving his company’s headquarters to Singapore, and Sony is moving its headquarters to Amsterdam to avoid Brexit disruption. The Netherlands’ capital is reportedly talking to over 250 business about them locating there. In October last year, even the Government advised that some companies should move to Europe if there was a no-deal Brexit.

Airbus is a pan-European company with several sites across Britain, France, Germany and Spain. With 3,000 direct employees at Filton, it is one of the largest employers in Bristol and the surrounding areas. In addition, many other jobs are reliant or connected to the Bristol operation would be at risk if the company were to relocate. 

Britain being in the EU has allowed Airbus to flourish in the UK, with the Filton operation designing wings for its aircraft which are then manufactured in Wales. It is clear that, even if we avoid a “no-deal” Brexit, much depends on the nature of the ongoing deal which is still to be fully negotiated.

Sadly, it seems that the uncertainty for employees of Airbus is far from being over and yet, despite warnings such as Enders’, and the actions of Sony, there are prominent supporters of “No Deal” Brexit who believe that loss of major businesses, and jobs, is a price worth paying. That’s why Lib Dems demand better than Brexit: an opportunity for the people to have the final say.

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