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Airbus chief says plane maker could leave Britain without Brexit deal

By Clyde Hughes
Brexit protesters campaign outside Houses of Parliament January 15. The chief of Airbus, one of Britain's largest employers, said Thursday the company may not stay if Britain doesn't have a deal to leave the European Union. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
Brexit protesters campaign outside Houses of Parliament January 15. The chief of Airbus, one of Britain's largest employers, said Thursday the company may not stay if Britain doesn't have a deal to leave the European Union. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Airbus chief executive Tom Enders issued a stark warning for Britain Thursday as the country moves toward its March 29 deadline to leave the European Union without an agreement.

Airbus, which has its headquarters in Toulouse, France, makes the wings for all of its civil aircraft in Britain. Its work supports some 110,000 other jobs through its supply chain along with the 14,000 workers it hires directly, making it one of the country's largest employers.

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Ender said in a video Thursday that appeared to put in play the 14,000 employees Airbus hires in Britain across 25 locations. The Financial Times reported it also comes just days before British Parliament votes on a "Plan B" Brexit offered by Prime Minister Theresa May after her crushing defeat this month in the House of Commons.

"The U.K.'s aerospace sector now stands at the precipice," Enders said in the video. "If there is a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the U.K. ... Make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there that would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft."

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Enders said Airbus and other international companies doing business in Britain are still in the dark about their futures. He said those company could start to look elsewhere.

"We still have no idea what is going on here," Enders said. "As we prepare to celebrate Airbus' 50th anniversary, we look back fondly on everything we've achieved with our with our magnificent U.K. workforce. But the global market for aviation is growing at five percent each year. We are not dependent on the U.K. for our future.

"The question is, does the U.K. wish to be a part of that future success. If you are really sure Brexit is best for Britain, come together and deliver a pragmatic withdrawal agreement that allows for an orderly Brexit."

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Enders also took a shot at Brexit hardliners who reject the idea that large companies like Airbus would abandon Britain because they have too much invested in the country.

"Please don't listen to the Brexiteers' madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here," he said. "They are wrong. Of course, it is not possible to pick up and move our large U.K. factories to other parts of the world immediately. However, aerospace is a long-term business and we could be forced to redirect future investments in the event of a no-deal Brexit."

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