Airbus believes in Britain but the Tory Brexiteers do not – so who do you think we should listen to?

The plane maker’s investment demands a return, and if Britain is determined to prevent it from making one, it won’t have any choice but to leave

James Moore
Thursday 24 January 2019 16:30
Airbus believes in Britain but the Tory Brexiteers do not: So who do you think we should listen to?

Airbus believes in Britain. You only need to look at the vast resources it has committed to this country to see that. Every wing on one of the company’s commercial aircraft will have been designed and manufactured right here, and the company employs 14,000 people at 25 sites dotted up and down our island.

But that’s just the start of it.

It also pumps £6bn a year into UK suppliers, ranging from homegrown industrial giants such as Rolls-Royce and GKN, to a myriad of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

About a third of that money goes into the West Midlands, but nine of the 12 UK regions benefit to the tune of more than £100m.

Tens of thousands of jobs are reliant upon those funds. Good jobs too.

Airbus also invests in the sort of training that there is such a marked shortage of in Britain, having put more than 4,000 young people through apprenticeships over the the past decade. It was churning them out long before the idea became fashionable with the Conservative government.

That’s some commitment. It is true belief.

When chief executive Tom Enders said Brexit could bring that commitment to an end, some Brexiteers have used the scale of the company’s investment to claim that there’s no way Airbus will pull out.

They include the dribbling imbeciles that the BBC’s Today programme insists on putting up against experts like Enders on this sort of subject to satisfy a notion of “balance”. Maybe the argument goes that it’s OK to counter facts with lies as long as you counter them with something.

The point they deliberately choose to ignore is that Airbus operates in a competitive industry. And it doesn’t just source supplies from the UK, because we don’t produce everything it needs for those dirty great wings. You would be surprised if it did.

To stay competitive with a rival like America’s Boeing and Brexit could be a wonderful thing for Boeing’s American workers it can’t afford to wait for those supplies to spend weeks in the no-deal Kent lorry park our government is preparing to create. Nor can it afford the new tariffs that will be imposed through the UK pulling out of the world’s largest free trade zone.

Enders does not want to pull out of Britain. He believes in the place. Britain is good for Airbus and the company has a long history here. It has roots. There is a vast supply of expertise and know-how knocking around the place that’s handy for it to be able to tap into.

But the chief executive clearly fears chaos in a no-deal scenario, and this is not project fear working on him. Nor is he indulging in it. It is simply the cold assessment of a man and a team of people working for him who know what they are talking about.

Enders is simply telling it like it is as opposed to spinning the sort of childish fantasy spun by venal, and/or stupid, and/or just plain bad Brexiteer MPs.

When he brands the Brexit process that they have driven as a “disgrace”, who could argue? Hands up who thinks Theresa May and her dismal government have handled this well?

No, Airbus won’t shut up shop immediately. We will likely see something like an accelerated wind down, with the investment shifted to other countries which don’t choose to allow venal and/or stupid and/or just plain bad people to wreck their economies.

This sort of thing has happened with manufacturers before. Don’t kid yourself that it hasn’t. During its tiger-like rise, for example, China benefitted hugely from companies moving factories and investments lock, stock and barrel to its shores.

An investment like the one made by Airbus demands a return, and if Britain is determined to prevent it from making one, it will go. It won’t have any choice. That’s business and it will join the business exodus that is already under way.

Take the asset management firm that arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg set up with his old Etonian mates, and from which he draws a substantial dividend. It has set up funds in Dublin. Then there’s Sir James Dyson, who is moving the corporate HQ of his firm to Singapore. John Redwood – I refuse to refer to him as Sir – advised clients of broker Charles Stanley (where he has a part time job that pays him a six figure salary) to pull their money out of Britain.

Airbus doesn’t want to follow that advice, and it doesn’t want to join the exodus. It will only do so if Redwood and his chums force it to.

Forget people’s words. Take a moment to concentrate on their deeds and you can see who it is that really believes in Britain: it is Tom Enders and Airbus, and it is time that we listened to them.

Actually, no, it is not time we listened to them. It is time our MPs listened to them, and put their country first for once.

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