Airbus, one of the UK’s biggest manufacturing employers, has told the BBC that it may have to stockpile parts to operate smoothly after the UK leaves the EU.

Katherine Bennett, Senior Vice President, Airbus UK, warned: “We need conditions right for us, we just don’t need these burdens… which may make Airbus think differently [about its base]”.

Just in time

On the BBC’s Today programme, Bennett explained that that the firm operated a “just in time” supply chain, which meant that even a three-hour delay at Dover, for example, would be “a critical issue”. The company spends £5 billion a year on its UK supply chain.

Bennett said: “It is really important the parts don’t get held up in warehouses” and that the company would have to make a decision about stockpiling “very soon”.

Airbus builds its planes in four home countries across Europe. In the UK, it builds the wings for its planes at Filton, near Bristol, and has other operations at Broughton in North Wales. Bennett said the firm was in discussions with government.

FINN recently ran a panel discussion about the implications of Brexit for the aerospace industry at the ADS CEO Briefing. The panellists were Scott McLarty, VP UK & Malaysia, Spirit AeroSystems; Colin Smith, Chairman of the Aerospace Growth Partnership & President, ADS; and Paul Everitt, CEO, ADS.

While they acknowledged Brexit brings serious challenges, Everitt also stressed, “We’ve been very clear with government that to understand what our new relationship with the rest of the EU is going to be will take some time…So the focus for us is to ensure that we get an early agreement.”

Addressing job concerns

Separately, senior management representatives of Airbus will meet the European Works Council on 7 March 2018 to explain previously announced rate reductions on the A380 and A400M programmes and to discuss associated implications for the workforce. There have been recent press reports of plans for thousands of job cuts at the company.

Airbus said it had a policy of “first addressing workforce issues with its social partners” before any public disclosure.

In its statement, the company said it, “deeply regrets that the process on the current subject matter has been disturbed by leaks to the media, which resulted in excessive reporting about alleged job cuts in its four home countries”.

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