The CBI has warned that Airbus and BMW could be the first of many businesses to threaten to relocate if the government does not provide clarity over Brexit, potentially putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Airbus chief operating officer Tom Williams last week warned that a “no deal” scenario would “directly threaten Airbus’ future in the UK”.
The company was considering relocating overseas if businesses were not given clarity soon – a decision which could affect 14,000 employees, employed at 25 sites across the UK. It also supports more than 110,000 jobs at other businesses in the UK supply chain.
BMW, which employs 8,000 people in the UK, also warned about the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. UK boss Ian Robertson suggested that clarity was needed by the end of the summer for it to start making contingency plans.
Josh Hardie, deputy director general at the CBI, said organisations were increasingly considering “speaking out” about the effect a no deal scenario would have on business, according to the Guardian.
“Companies are now being forced to prepare for the reality of a cliff edge and I think we could see more statements like this if negotiations continue as they are,” he said.
But Number 10 downplayed the concerns raised by businesses, insisting that the UK would get a “good deal” when it leaves the EU next March.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the government was confident the UK would get a deal that “ensures trade is as free and frictionless as possible” and said it was in nobody’s interest to disrupt cross-border supply chains.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt dismissed Airbus’s and BMW’s warnings as “completely inappropriate” and suggested that the UK needed unity while the terms of the Brexit deal were being negotiated.
However, Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, suggested the government should pay attention to businesses’ concerns. She said: “Airbus and other businesses have been very reluctant to speak out, but this stark warning must serve as a wake-up call to government to ensure we do not crash out without a deal, which would have devastating consequences for UK jobs and for many of the UK’s most important industries.”
Last week the Home Office revealed the details of its settlement scheme for EU nationals working in the UK after Brexit. It will cost £65 per adult to apply for settled status.