Major space firm Airbus writes letter warning of the risks of Brexit vote

The Airbus Defence and Space facility at Hilsea in Portsmouth
The Airbus Defence and Space facility at Hilsea in Portsmouth
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AEROSPACE giant Airbus Group has written to its 15,000 UK employees – including 1,400 at its Airbus Defence and Space site in Portsmouth – warning of the risks of a Brexit vote.

The letter outlined fears that leaving the European Union could increase competition in the UK market, but it also said that it remained ‘committed’ to its UK operations whatever the outcome of the referendum.

The aircraft manufacturer, which employs 136,000 people globally and 15,000 people in the UK, said its success is based on a ‘highly competitive, integrated European business model.’

The letter, signed by six top Airbus Group bosses, including the president of Airbus Group UK Paul Kahn, said: ‘We simply don’t know what ‘out’ looks like.’

And added that they ‘firmly believe that it makes good economic sense to stay inside the EU.’

It continued: ‘Should the British electorate have a different view then clearly we wouldn’t cease our activities in the UK, which are highly important and very prominent.

‘However, our business model is entirely based on our ability to move products, people and ideas around Europe without any restriction and we do not believe leaving will increase the competitiveness of our British based operations.’

The international manufacturer said it has become the largest commercial aerospace company in the UK and the biggest supplier of large aircraft to the RAF.

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said the letter was a ‘hugely welcome’ intervention.

She said: ‘It is a hugely welcome intervention and shows exactly what’s on the line for workers and businesses in the referendum.’

Portsmouth’s Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder also welcomed the news. She said: ‘Yet another major local employer has made it clear that staying in Europe is the best way to protect skilled jobs and investment.

‘The UK benefits hugely from having full access to the largest single market in the world and influence over its rules.

‘A vote to remain in Europe is a vote to protect Portsmouth’s thriving economy and secure opportunity for future generations.’

However, Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt added: ‘It’s good that Airbus have confirmed that Brexit would not affect their UK operations.

‘It is clear that there are massive benefits economically to the UK leaving and the reform of the EU it could kickstart, in particular to this sector.

‘There is huge interest from another major company in the space sector looking to base itself in Portsmouth, so I’m confident we are likely to see more activity not less in the near future.’