A pan-European corporation with operations scattered across the continent, Airbus is an apt poster child for the potential fallout from a no-deal Brexit. The world’s only rival to Boeing emerged over decades from a sweeping regional consolidation of the industry – it still has deep roots in France, Germany, Britain and Spain, with major factories in each of these countries.
Wings for the Airbus models are built in Britain, so that a hard Brexit would mean a massive disruption in the supply chain. More than that, it is unclear whether Britain would remain a member in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and whether wings built in Britain could even be used on Airbus planes.
“That could be a very troubling situation for us and in the end could lead to a suspension of production,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders warned months ago.
Thousands of employees
The company has been building up inventories and telling suppliers to get EASA certification now. But a three-months’ supply of components hardly solves the bigger issue of how Airbus could continue to produce airplanes with British parts.
Loss of the business would be a disaster for Britain. There are 14,000 directly employed at Airbus, with 4,000 British suppliers employing 100,000 people.
The cost to Airbus would be considerable, with estimates ranging from hundreds of millions of euros to a billion, especially if the company has to build new factories.
And then there were two
Another problem is the new European fighter jet. The Eurofighter is supposed to be developed and built by France, Germany and Britain. Under the shadow of Brexit, France and Germany last summer floated the idea of just the two countries building it.
But Britain proposed a fighter jet of its own, developed and built by British firms. Rather than have a new competitor to the European project, Enders urged the countries to stick to the original plan of having all three work on the same project.
Jens Koenen covers aerospace for Handelsblatt. Darrell Delamaide adapted this story into English for Handelsblatt Today. To contact the author: [email protected]