24 January, 2019
The chief of Airbus on Thursday warned that the aviation company could move its United Kingdom operations out of Britain. The move might happen if the country leaves the European Union without a deal on trade relations.
Airbus chief Tom Enders said a so-called "Brexit" threatens to destroy a century of development in Britain's world-leading aviation industry.
Airbus has more than 14,000 employees in Britain. Another 110,000 work in jobs supported by Airbus programs.
Business leaders have expressed growing worry about the lack of progress in securing a Brexit trade deal before March 29, the day of Britain's planned exit from the EU. They are expecting major problems caused by new taxes, customs checks, and a lack of trade agreements between the U.K. (United Kingdom) and the EU. The EU is the U.K.'s biggest trading partner.
Last week, British lawmakers dismissed the deal Prime Minister Theresa May had reached with the EU. Lawmakers have not yet had success at reaching a different deal.
Enders said Airbus would be "forced to re-direct future investments in the event of a no-deal Brexit." He added there are "plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft."
Enders said in a statement that people supporting Brexit are promising Airbus would never move because it has such a large factory there.
"They are wrong," he said.
Warnings from businesses have increased in recent days. The warning from Airbus is notable in that it demonstrates a clear willingness to leave the U.K.
The Bank of England has said that, in a worst-case situation, a sudden Brexit with no deal on future relations could lead to a recession. It estimates Britain's economy could shrink by 8 percent within months.
May has been holding talks with government and opposition politicians, business representatives and trade union leaders. But she has shown little willingness to make changes to her Brexit plan.
Instead, she hopes to win lawmakers' backing for her deal. She guaranteed changes from the EU to a much-disputed measure designed to ensure an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.
EU leaders say they will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, "A deal that doesn't give us a legally binding workable guarantee that there won't be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is a deal in name only."
He added: "And that's not something that we could accept."
Britain's divided Parliament is set to vote next week on May's proposal. They also plan to vote on opposing deals, including efforts by groups of legislators to delay Britain's exit and to prevent a "no-deal" Brexit from even happening.
May's government has rejected both ideas. But a growing number of lawmakers believe Britain will have to ask the EU to delay Brexit past March 29 to solve the impasse.
Airbus chief Tom Enders said business leaders could not plan for the future and need clear answers. "But we still have no idea what is really going on here," he said.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
aviation - n. the business or practice of flying airplanes, helicopters, etc.
ensure - v. to make (something) sure, certain, or safe
binding - adj. forcing or requiring someone to do something because of a promise, agreement, etc.
impasse - n. a situation in which no progress seems possible