Our politicians are in real danger of sleepwalking into the most damaging economic act upon our region’s economy in living memory. We call upon them, and the UK government, to act now to secure the region’s economic future and take steps now to remove the threat of a No Deal Brexit.
The aerospace sector is one of the jewels in the crown in our region. It employs tens of thousands of men and women in high value and skilled work, it creates a supply chain of talented firms of all sizes and supports the livelihoods of thousands of families across Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and the west.
Our aerospace sector is also a critical part of our region’s wider economic health – and underpins not just aerospace, but also a much wider set of higher value engineering, manufacturing, logistics, design and research activity.
Airbus is undoubtedly the most important part of the sector locally – it employs thousands and is central to our regional supply chain, supporting the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of other people.
Airbus’s recent statement on the consequence of No Deal should worry all of us – and be a wake-up call for politicians from the region.
When a Chief Executive says that their sector “stands at a precipice” and that Brexit “is threatening to destroy a century of development based on education, research and human capital”, we should take notice. We should also be aware that this language represents not just the level of threat facing the industry but also the level of frustration many businesses now feel with the state of Brexit plans and the current paralysis in Parliament.
A sector of remarkable strength, depth and value to our region is potentially going to be seriously weakened. Airbus are stating very clearly that the position of the West of England as a centre for global investment and expertise is being threatened. It is now reported that “at least” seven countries have approached Airbus to request they open talks to replace the UK in hosting future wing production.
This is not just an issue for Airbus, but poses a significant risk for smaller and medium sized companies within Airbus’s supply chain and our wider aerospace sector.
A growing number of local aerospace supply chain and wider manufacturing companies have now started to implement contingency plans to cope with the risks from Brexit. This has included shifting logistics and warehousing to the EU, revising recruitment and investment plans, setting up EU legal identities to cope with regulatory risks, looking at stockpiling or holding off on further investment decisions and moving part of the company to the EU. This is on top of Airbus’s stated plan to freeze expansion of work with any new UK suppliers.