Airbus SE , one of Europe’s biggest companies, sharpened its threat to move operations out of the U.K. if politicians couldn’t negotiate a deal to leave the European Union in an orderly fashion. The verbal attack from outgoing Chief Executive Tom Enders—a frequent and outspoken critic of Brexit—adds a significant dose of fresh pressure from the business community, amid a standstill in London over how to move forward with stalled Brexit plans. The U.K. is slated to leave the EU on March 29, but hasn’t yet agreed to a deal with the bloc—threatening to upend the free flow of goods across the English Channel.
“If there is a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the U.K. Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong.”,said Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders, who has been among the most outspoken business leaders on the topic. 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,” Enders said. “If you are really sure that Brexit is best for Britain, come together and deliver a pragmatic withdrawal agreement.”
Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, directly employs 14,000 people in the U.K. and supports another 110,000, Enders said in the video. The company has production sites in Filton, in the southwest of England, and in Wales, where it manufactures wings for its range of commercial aircraft. Airbus was overtaken in 2018 by its arch-rival, Boeing Co., as the world’s biggest maker of jetliners by orders. Airbus has been stockpiling parts at its plants in the U.K. and Germany to try to blunt any immediate impact of the hard borders that a no-deal Brexit would impose. The company has said that it expects to have enough stock to cover production for one month, but it can’t be fully prepare
Parliament is scheduled to vote next week on a series of options for Brexit’s next steps, including a proposal to force the government to ask the EU to extend the deadline. Senior figures in the French and German governments have said they’d be open to agreement on that request, signaling a receding risk of a no-deal Brexit. While squabbling lawmakers can’t agree on a model for Brexit, many financial firms are moving money out of the City of London, a shift that may be irreversible. Five of the largest banks looking to serve continental European customers intend to send 750 billion euros ($854 billion) of assets to Frankfurt. Britain would face a severe hollowing-out of its industrial base if such decisions were taken, yet time is running out for a decision on Brexit. If the U.K. can’t agree on a deal in the next nine weeks, the country will leave the EU in a disorderly split that British authorities warn will risk a recession. The pound might weaken as much as 25 percent.