Aerospace firms may resume investment in the UK’s industry currently put on hold if Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement is voted through parliament, Airbus told MPs this morning.
Companies have either paused investment in the UK since the EU referendum or transferred it to other markets, executives told the Commons' Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee.
Katherine Bennett, senior vice president of Airbus UK, said the company had not made any “significant” investments in the last year because of uncertainty surrounding a no-deal Brexit.
She said the company had “great capability”, but “because of the uncertainty, which we want to see reversed, that is why investments have been put on hold”.
But the deal was a “step forward”, she said. "If the withdrawal agreement is successful in some form or another then Airbus would consider continuing to invest as the company has done over many years.”
The Prime Minister is currently fighting to win support for the deal among MPs ahead of a commons vote on 11 December, as more than 80 MPs from her own party have publicly vowed to vote it down, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority Conservative government.
Paul Everitt, chief executive of the aerospace industry body ADS Group, told the committee that while those that had committed to invest before the referendum had “continued with those investments”, others had put their money into other countries’ industries instead.
“Those who have options have chosen to either hold and wait and see what happens or in some cases decided to put that investment into other markets or into capability in other territories," he said.
Everitt added that in an ideal world aerospace companies would like the two-year transition period to be longer.
“We would always prefer to know what the new conditions are and then have a two-year plus period to adapt to them… But that’s a political issue over which we have little or no control,” he said.
Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest man and owner of chemicals giant Ineos, today also backed the government’s proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement, urging MPs to “put the good of the country ahead of political considerations” and vote it through.