Airbus boss doubles down on Brexit no deal 'catastrophe' warning

PUBLISHED: 12:10 17 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:26 17 February 2019

Airbus UK vice CEO Katherine Bennett warned that a no deal Brexit would be a 'catastrophe' on the Andrew Marr show. Picture: BBC

Airbus UK vice CEO Katherine Bennett warned that a no deal Brexit would be a 'catastrophe' on the Andrew Marr show. Picture: BBC

BBC

An Airbus UK boss has doubled down on calls to avoid a no deal Brexit, saying that it would be 'absolutely catastrophic' for the company.

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Senior vice president Katherine Bennett spoke for Airbus UK, which has 14,000 employees in the UK and claims to spend £5billion a year with UK suppliers.

During the 2016 referendum, Airbus UK had announced that it would not move, but CEO Tim Ender wrote to parliament in January saying that Brexit had put Britain’s aerospace industry “at a precipice”.

Airbus warns government not to listen to Brexiteers’ ‘madness’

Speaking today on BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Ms Bennett said the company’s change of heart had come about because of the political failure to get a deal so far.

She reiterated that “difficult decisions” would have to be made in the event of a no deal Brexit.

An Airbus wing assembly factory in Broughton, North Wales. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA.An Airbus wing assembly factory in Broughton, North Wales. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA.

She clarified that the company’s decision to cancel production of the ‘super-jumbo’ A380 was nothing to do with Brexit, and that she was optimistic that the government would get a deal.

However, she said: “It’s quite clear for all of us.

“The clock is ticking and Airbus, like many many other businesses, have spoken up.

“What we’re concerned about it the prospect of no deal.

Mark Francois MP rips up a letter from Airbus on BBC News. Photograph: BBC.Mark Francois MP rips up a letter from Airbus on BBC News. Photograph: BBC.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘managed’ no deal, it’s absolutely catastrophic for us, and this is why we wanted to speak up.

“Our CEO has felt it important to speak up on behalf of our sector, which is a really important contributor to the UK economy.”

She said that there is a backlog of orders for 9,000 aircraft, meaning that there are many years of production yet.

“But there will be decisions coming down the line in the next few years where my company will have to look seriously at investments,” she added.

“European collaboration is so important for future technology,” she said. “Aerospace is an international business, and I want the UK to remain part of that.”

The company has spent tens of millions of Euros on Brexit readiness, she said, including stockpiling parts, and looking at IT systems and employee mobility.

This money would have been better spent on apprentices, increasing skills, and encouraging more women into the industry, she said.

“I’d rather our money was spent on that,” she said.

CEO Tim Enders’ message was apparently too much for some Brexiteers, namely Mark Francois who ripped up the letter on TV saying he would not be bullied by Germans, because his father had been a D-Day veteran.

Ms Bennett gave the outburst short shrift, saying Mr Francois was entitled to his view.

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