Tens of thousands of British jobs at risk as Airbus considers UK exit over Brexit

The company has warned the UK against leaving the single market and customs union

Tens of thousands of British jobs at risk as Airbus considers UK exit over Brexit

A test version of the Airbus A380 Superjumbo jet at Filton Airport in Bristol, 06-09-2009. Image: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images

Global aerospace firm Airbus is making plans to pull out of the UK, with the loss of thousands of jobs, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

The company employs 14,000 people directly at sites including Bristol, Stevenage, Portsmouth and north Wales.

A further 110,000 jobs are also vulnerable at firms supplying the aircraft maker.

The company has 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 is one of the most significant interventions by a major manufacturer since the Brexit referendum two years ago.

The assessment warns that the planned transition period to 2020 is too short for businesses to reorganise supply chains.

"Severe negative consequences"

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,” he said.

"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."

Red lines

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.

An Airbus employee stands in front of a plane in the Airbus-Finkenwerder factory in Hamburg, Germany. 14-06-2018. Image: Daniel Reinhardt/DPA/PA Images

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.

The risk assessment warned that: "This extremely negative outcome for Airbus would be catastrophic.”

"It would impair our ability to benefit from highly qualified British resources," it said.

"It would also severely undermine UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry, while developing high-value jobs and competencies."