Airbus issues Brexit warning threatening thousands of Welsh jobs

Thousands of Welsh jobs are at risk as Airbus has warned it could leave the UK if it exits the European Union single market and customs union without a transition deal after Brexit.

The European planemaker employs more than 6,000 people at its wing factory at Broughton in Flintshire and about 900 people at its base in Newport.

The Welsh Government said Airbus’ warning was “extremely worrying”.

“The UK cannot take the economic risk of cutting ourselves adrift,” it said.

Airbus said the warning was not part of “project fear, but it was a “dawning reality”.

It is estimated that the aviation giant supports about 11,600 jobs in Wales alone in the supply chain.

The First Minister Carwyn Jones is due to hold talks with other UK ministers and political counterparts at a meeting of the British Irish Council in Guernsey later on Friday, where the issue is expected to be raised.

“We have repeatedly warned that the UK cannot take the huge economic risk of cutting ourselves adrift from the Single Market and Customs Union,” said a Welsh Government official.

“Particularly in the case of manufacturing sectors, which in Wales are so important in providing high-paid, high-skilled jobs.

“We have again today called on the UK government in its forthcoming White Paper to commit to staying inside the Single Market and Customs Union.”

He has already issued a joint statement with the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging the prime minister to pledge to stay in the EU’s single market and customs union.

They have warned that Theresa May’s plan for the UK’s departure from the EU was not “consistent with the national interest”.

In its Brexit “risk assessment” published on Thursday, Airbus said if the UK left the EU next year without a deal – meaning it left both the single market and customs union immediately and without any agreed transition – it would “lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production.

“This scenario would force Airbus to reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country,” it added.

The company, which makes all the wings for its passenger planes at its Deeside plant, also said the current planned transition period which is due to end in December 2020 was too short for it to make changes to its supply chain.

As a result it would “refrain from extending” its UK supplier base. It said it currently had more than 4,000 suppliers in the UK.

“The enormous Airbus factory in north Wales is one of the jewels in the crown of UK manufacturing,” said former Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, the Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire.

“This is a wake-up call. A pragmatic, sensible Brexit that protects trade and jobs is vital.”

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood also expressed her concerns on Friday.

She said the party would be “seeking opportunities to raise this with the Welsh and Westminster governments”.

Responding to the comments from Airbus, a UK government official said: “We have made significant progress towards agreeing a deep and special partnership with the EU to ensure trade remains as free and frictionless as possible, including in the aerospace sector, and we’re confident of getting a good deal that is mutually beneficial.

“Given the good progress that we are continuing to make in the negotiations we do not expect a no-deal scenario to arise.”