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Airbus Group sees 'Brexit' hurting UK competitiveness
February 24, 2016 / 9:20 AM / 2 years ago

Airbus Group sees 'Brexit' hurting UK competitiveness

Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders attends an annoucement during the 51st Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

LONDON (Reuters) - Airbus Group expects the competitiveness of its British operations to fall if Britons vote to leave the European Union in a referendum, potentially threatening the scale of the planemaker’s operations in the country.

The support of France-headquartered Airbus, which employs 16,000 people in Britain, for those campaigning alongside Prime Minister David Cameron to stay in the EU comes a day after a group of company bosses warned that a vote to leave in a June 23 referendum would put the economy at risk.

“If Britain leaves, I cannot imagine that this would have positive consequences for our competitiveness in Britain,” Chief Executive Tom Enders told a news conference at the aerospace group’s annual results on Wednesday.

Airbus said that while a so-called Brexit would result in a review of its investment plans in Britain, it does not currently have a team of people working on contingency plans.

“We don’t have any specific contingency plans other than increasing our productivity, continuing to invest, continuing what we need to do to succeed,” Paul Kahn president of Airbus UK said in an interview.

The company, which builds wings for jetliners in Britain, will set up a response team if Britain does vote to leave the EU, but until then Kahn said there was not a clear picture of the alternative to membership of the bloc, making planning difficult.

“You can make all sorts of assumptions positive or negative and we just don’t know what ‘Out’ looks like, so it’s very difficult to answer questions about,” he said.

As such, Airbus is not spending material sums on planning, he said.

“There’s no need to spend money now on hypothetical situations,” Kahn added.

The company’s focus in Britain in the meantime is on ensuring its operations were as competitive as possible.

“Wings are only going to be continued to be made here if we maintain our global competitiveness,” Kahn said. “The EU genuinely helps us to be globally competitive.”

Additional reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by Estelle Shirbon

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