Bristol

Airbus may quit Filton if hard Brexit happens, MP fears

Airbus A380 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Airbus employs 4,000 people at Filton

An MP has claimed the European plane maker Airbus could leave the UK in the event of a hard Brexit, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Darren Jones, the Labour MP for Bristol North West, said if the company moved due to trading obstacles, it could mean 4,000 jobs go at Filton, near Bristol.

Mr Jones said if Brexit "causes delays, risks and blockages for business, they [Airbus] will have to consider moving".

The company said its UK sites remain "highly competitive".

Airbus's commercial aircraft division is a pan-EU operation with its headquarters in the Netherlands and its head office in France.

Image caption The A350 wings are designed in Filton near Bristol and then made in North Wales

Its plant at Filton accounts for the design and engineering for Airbus wings, fuel systems and landing gear integration.

A Brexit deal without a free trade arrangement with the EU could potentially leave Airbus paying out for extra import and export duties.

However, the government's stated aim is to secure a deal for "frictionless trade".

International trade secretary Liam Fox MP accused Labour of trying to scare people.

He said: "I don't think there's any chance of them leaving the United Kingdom because they've got such a major investment here. They've got a skilled workforce, these sorts of things are not easily come by elsewhere.

'Imperial booze'

"I think we need to engage constructively and I think trying to unnecessarily frighten people about their job prospects and their economic security is very unnecessary at this point."

Mr Jones claims there are rumours the government wants to create its own trading block and invite other countries to join them. He suggested the framework could be outlined in Theresa May's speech next week in Florence.

"If that's true it shows that the Prime Minister is as delusional as the rest of her government because there are already existing trade bodies like the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which we could join to maintain our access to the Common Single Market.

"My concern is that we're drunk on imperial booze, thinking we're the most attractive option to trade with in the world."

He added that it would make more sense for the UK to negotiate joining EFTA to secure tariff-free access to trading in Europe.

An Airbus spokesman said the company "did not want to see new barriers created or the flexibility of our workforce constrained".

"Our UK sites are among the most competitive within Airbus, and competitiveness is the key word for our industrial investments in the UK as well as France, Germany and elsewhere in the world," he added.

The firm also said it wanted to ensure Brexit and the government would safeguard the competitiveness of the aerospace and understand its needs during the Brexit process.

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