The European aerospace and defence giant Airbus said yesterday that it would reconsider investment in the UK if the country chose independence from the European Union in the promised in/out referendum. In doing so the company contradicted previous comments it has made on the subject.
William Dartmouth, UKIP MEP for South West England and spokesman on trade, said:
“Airbus in the recent past has flatly contradicted allegations of stopping investment if Britain leaves the EU. In January 2014, Airbus stated that the reason they stay in the UK is because it is a ‘competitive place to do business.’”
Those earlier comments were a response to allegations that Airbus might withdraw from the UK if it left the EU. Airbus Public Affairs Vice president, Katherine Bennett issued a statement on behalf of Tom Williams at the time. He has been Airbus UK’s Chief Operating Officer since January 2015 but was then Executive Vice President Programmes. The statement said:
“Clearly we have a massive investment in the UK and I don’t think there has ever been a plan to change that. The key issue is for the UK to continue to be a competitive place to do business.”
Reviewing the comment Dartmouth observed that “profitable trade and political union are not joined at the hip,” pointing out that many international companies from outside the EU trade with companies within without being part of a political union, as he puts it “business investment depends on profits not politics.”
Dartmouth also noted that some companies or business lobbies can be bought. In May 2011 the World Trade Organisation (WTO) appeal board found that Airbus had received unfair subsidies from the EU and EU member states incompatible with WTO rules.
“If you look at companies and groups which support the EU and the UK remaining part of it, you will find they receive direct subsidies from the EU. The CBI has received over £800k from the European Commission in five years, while Airbus has received billions from the EU and European Investment Bank in recent years.
“Companies normally invest because they will make profits. In 2007, Airbus threatened to move manufacturing to the US as the euro was soaring, so Airbus allegiance to the EU can melt away in a changing business environment.”
The contradictory comment from Airbus comes less than a week after executives at the major British manufacturer JCB said Britain would be better off leaving an unreformed EU.