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Brexit ‘chaos’ endangering Airbus UK operations

Politico, Jun 22

Airbus’ British operations are in danger as a result of Brexit uncertainty as it considers it “too dangerous” to continue with business as usual, the company’s boss said today.

“We have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of clarity and obviously now time is running out,” Tom Williams, Airbus’ chief operating officer, said on the BBC’s Today program.

Williams’ comments come on the back of a risk assessment released by Airbus Thursday in which the firm warned a no-deal Brexit would cause “severe disruption” to its operations in the UK, where it employs 14,000 people directly and supports some 100,000 indirectly.

“We have to come to the point where we have to make serious decisions,” Williams said. “We’re talking about decisions in terms of safety stocks, buffer stocks of components, assuming there will be chaos at the borders and the material won’t be moving freely … we’re also talking about what will happen to components … which today are certified under [European Aviation Safety Agency] rules, and at the end of March next year those certifications will be invalid. Those components won’t be able to be fitted to airplanes.”

In its risk assessment, Airbus warned that a no-deal Brexit “would force Airbus to reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country, severely undermining UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry.” The report calculated that a hard Brexit would cost Airbus €1 billion a week.

In his Today interview, Williams said Airbus, which makes wings at its factory in Broughton in north Wales, needs clarity “over the next weeks.”

“We’re already beginning to press the button on our crisis actions,” he said. “It’s not a way-off decision, it’s a series of significant decisions that will accumulate over the next couple of months.”

Williams identified the “wing of the future” program, currently in development in the UK, as being at risk. “Clearly now we’re seriously considering whether we should continue that development, or we should find alternate solutions,” he said.

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