LONDON — Britain’s government has “no clue or at least no consensus” over reaching a Brexit deal, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said on Friday.
During a company presentation delivered in London, Enders repeated the European planemaker’s stark concerns made last month should Britain exit the European Union without a deal.
His comments came as British Prime Minister Theresa May seeks Friday to finally unite her warring ministers behind a Brexit plan and unblock negotiations with the EU.
Asked for his views on the government’s handling of negotiations with Brussels, Enders said: “They seem to have no clue, or at least no consensus”.
“We believe that the UK should at least stay in the customs union, we believe that the UK should stay in the regulatory bodies,” he said.
Enders insisted this was “a minimum that would be required… at least to minimize the damage” to Airbus and the wider industry.
Airbus, which directly employs nearly 15,000 people in the UK, warned last month that the country crashing out of the bloc without a deal would be “catastrophic” and force it to consider its investments.
“Put simply, a ‘no deal’ scenario directly threatens Airbus’ future in the UK,” chief operating officer Tom Williams said in June.
May’s government holds out the possibility of walking away as a negotiating tactic, but says she expects to get a deal before it exits the bloc on March 29 next year.
With time running out, reports suggest May is proposing to keep and commit to future EU rules on trade in goods, an outcome intended in part to fulfill a pledge to avoid customs checks on the border between Northern Ireland in the UK and Ireland.
By contrast, the government will reportedly accept “reduced market access” for services — Britain’s dominant sector — in return for greater flexibility.
While it may appease Brussels, Euroskeptic MPs in May’s Conservative party are said to be outraged by such compromises.
Enders on Friday said he would not go into details about Airbus contingency plans but told his audience that “rest assured that we are taking first preparations as we speak in order to be able to mitigate consequences from whatever Brexit scenario may follow”.
He added: “Make no mistake, Brexit in whatever form, soft or hard, light or clean or whatever you call it, will be damaging for… our industry, for other industries, and damaging for the UK.”
Enders meanwhile insisted that Britain must remain in the European Aviation Safety Agency following Brexit or risk “the worst case scenario”.
He noted that “should the UK not be in the EASA anymore… certification for thousands of parts that are today part of our supply chain, part of our aircraft, would fall apart, and that could be a very troubling situation for us which could eventually lead to a standstill of production”. — AFP