The UK decision to exit the European arena could disrupt the plane producer’s ties with its plants in Broughton, Wales, and Filton, near Bristol. This, because Britain’s move to leave the single European market endangers the free movement of Airbus personnel between continental Europe and the British Isles as well as the seamless supply of goods.
Theresa May has drawn a clear dividing-line. Against all warnings of leading economists, UK’s Prime Minister took every opportunity to emphasize that her government is advocating a ‘hard Brexit’
in the upcoming negotiations with the EU Commission. However, May’s decision in playing hardball with Brussels could have somber consequences for the aviation industry of her country, with many
probably gnashing their teeth in the months ahead.
Airbus might freeze UK investments
Poor speculation or even panic making? Not according to Chief Operating Officer Tom Williams of Airbus, as The Independent writes, citing the executive. In its report, the publication refers to a recent meeting between Williams and members of the UK parliament. Key message of the manager was a stern warning that any blockade of Airbus staff to move freely between different sites of the plane making giant to do their jobs as required by Airbus could negatively affect the company’s future investment plans in their British plants. In his address to the Commons Treasury Select Committee, Williams emphasized that anything disrupting the decentralized and cooperative production model that works with high efficiency “will create inefficiency and could affect our long-term competitiveness.”
His statement must be understood as harsh criticism on Downing Street’s plan to sharply control the number of EU workers entering the UK after Brexit. This way undermining a continued membership of the single market, which mandates free movement of people across borders as well as free choice of employment.
Will the Brexit cause a brain drain?
In case, London and Brussels cannot reach a settlement guaranteeing people free movement, up to 15,000 staff working directly or indirectly for Airbus in the UK might be negatively affected should the plane maker freeze all investments that total €4.7 billion a year. Particularly affected by the absence of cash inflows would be the company’s two sites in Broughton and Filton. At Filton, hundreds of engineers are working on research and technology for future aircraft generations thus building a brain pool within Airbus. While the 6,000 Broughton employees are responsible for assembling the wings for all Airbus variants, both passenger and cargo jetliners, producing over 1,000 wings each year.
Addressing the UK’s Prime Minister in his “May”-Day message, Williams pointed out that any future UK-EU accord on trade matters must guarantee Airbus to move its staff and supplies from continental Europe to the UK and vice versa, without any restrictions, permanently or at short notice. If a hard Brexit should impede these basics, U.S. competitors would rejoice, taking every opportunity to undermine the success of the European aircraft manufacturer, he warned.