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Brexit ‘could leave UK isolated
The assembly line at the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France. The company is now the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military airlifters, employing nearly 75,000 people mostly in France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Airbus boss Paul Kahn fears Europe-wide business will be badly hit if country leaves EU.

London: Nearly 50 years ago, government ministers from France, Germany and Britain met and agreed that ‘for the purpose of strengthening European coordination in the field of aviation’ they should jointly develop the world’s first twin-engined wide-body passenger jet.
Two years later — in May 1969 — the A300 was launched and the story of modern-day pan-European business behemoth Airbus began.
The company is now the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military airlifters, employing nearly 75,000 people mostly in France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom and producing cutting-edge planes including the planet’s largest passenger airliner, the A380.
But an obstacle may be about to be thrown into the path of the Airbus success story, with the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union creating uncertainty at the company’s two large UK bases at Filton near Bristol and at Broughton in Wales.
Company bosses have been vocal in their support for a vote to remain, with Airbus UK president Paul Kahn going so far as writing to the 15,000 UK-based staff extolling the virtues of the EU ahead of Thursday’s in/out referendum.
Biggest concern
And with the polls indicating a closely fought contest, Kahn explained to Gulf News exactly why he thinks Britain should not turn its back on Europe.
“Our biggest concern is not so much the short-term disruption, it is about our longer-term competitiveness,” he said in an email interview. “We are a highly integrated business that, at its core, depends on European industrial organisation and integration.
“If the UK exits the EU, there are likely to be significant changes to the regulatory and economic environment, with subsequent impacts on our competitiveness. If we don’t enjoy the same unfettered access to people, capital, resource and technology that we currently do, then that will ultimately impact our competitiveness. Additional paperwork is not something that customers want to pay for.”
While Kahn insisted Airbus would continue to operate in the UK even if the country voted to leave the EU, he had a stark warning about Britain’s long-term future on the outside of the continental trading bloc.
“We have been clear that we will continue to support our existing operations irrespective of the referendum result. We remain committed to our current UK operations and workforce,” he said. “However, in the long term, a UK outside of the EU risks becoming isolated geopolitically, less influential in international trade negotiations and perhaps less competitive economically.
“This could have serious long-term ramifications for the country, which would not be easily undone.”
British suppliers
As well as the thousands of people employed at Filton and Broughton, Airbus also claims to be indirectly responsible for a further 100,000 jobs among its British suppliers. And Kahn believes Airbus has only been able to grow to such levels thanks to the EU.
“The success of Airbus Group’s operations in the UK depends on European industrial organisation and integration, which EU membership allows,” he said. “If the UK exits the EU, there are likely to be significant changes to the regulatory and economic environment, with subsequent impacts on our competitiveness.
“Airbus Group is the best example of a truly European industrial success story, with world-leading products and a brand that is envied around the globe.”
Of the EU’s limitations, Kahn added: “We have never said that the EU is not without its faults, but our arguments for Britain remaining in the EU are based on a desire to preserve a set of economic conditions that have allowed high-value manufacturing in the UK to flourish, whilst generating both jobs and prosperity for the economy as a whole.”


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