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BMW joins Airbus with concerns over Brexit 'clarity' in coordinated pro-EU business campaign

3 min read

Car giant BMW has joined Airbus in warning it could withdraw investment in Britain unless Theresa May keeps the UK closely aligned with the European Union.

BMW’s UK boss, Ian Robertson, echoed concerns raised by Airbus and said “clarity” was needed by the end of the summer over the UK’s position on the single market and the customs union.

"If we don't get clarity in the next couple of months we have to start making those contingency plans... which means making the UK less competitive than it is in a very competitive world right now," he told the BBC.

"That is a decisive issue that ultimately could damage this industry."

BMW, which makes the Mini and Rolls Royce and employs about 8,000 people in the UK, has previously warned about the damage of uncertainty around Brexit. 

It is part of a co-ordinated campaign from business leaders to strengthen arguments for a softer Brexit ahead of a two-day cabinet meeting at Chequers next month, sources told the Times

"There is going to be a monumental fight," one senior business leader told the paper.

"If there isn’t, then the politicians have failed. Business sentiment has changed in the last month. We need to know which direction the government is going in. Airbus is just the tip of the iceberg."

The crunch meeting at Chequers will thrash out a cabinet position on alignment with the single market.

Pro-European ministers led by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, are thought to be pushing Theresa May to abandon her insistence that Britain leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, according to the Times.

Earlier Airbus, which employs around 14,000 people in the UK across 25 sites, said a no-deal Brexit would "lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production".

Chief operating officer Tom Williams said: "The clock is ticking. If we decide now that we need one or two months of additional inventory because we are worried about these components getting stuck in the docks of Dover or Calais, then from a contingency point of view I have to do something."

But Ben Wallace, the Security Minister, said the company would not have been able to cover its budget overruns on the A400m transporter aircraft without the RAF’s custom. 

“When I last checked, if it wasn't for the customer countries of the A400m, Airbus would have not been able to cover the over budget and delays,” he tweeted on Friday. 

"Aerospace manufacturers need customers. Perhaps they might reflect on that."



Downing Street also sought to contain the concerns and a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said they were sure that the aerospace giant's fears were misplaced.

She said: "We are confident that we are going to get a good deal, one that ensures that trade is as free and frictionless as possible, including for the aerospace sector.

"The PM set out in her Mansion House speech that we want to remain part of the European Aviation Safety Agency and both the UK and the EU agreed that a final deal should ensure that the current level of connectivity is continued.

"The UK is a vital contributor to the success of the European aerospace industry and it's on no one's interests to disrupt the sector's cross-border supply chains.

"We are looking to secure a good deal that works for everyone, including the industry that Airbus are involved in."

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