Minister challenges Theresa May to sack him after saying Airbus threat proves no-deal Brexit a ‘disaster’

Posted On: 
24th January 2019

A minister has openly challenged Theresa May to sack him after he said the threat by Airbus to quit the UK proved a no-deal Brexit would be a “disaster”.

Tom Enders said the firm potentially needed to make 'potentially very harmful decisions'
Credit: 
PA Images

Richard Harrington said he was “delighted” to read comments by the major aerospace firm’s chief executive slamming the Government’s handling of negotiations with Brussels as a “disgrace”.

Tom Enders said the company, which employs around 14,000 people in Britain, would need to make “potentially very harmful decisions” if the UK leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place.

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He added: “Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness, which asserts that because we have huge plants here we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong.”

Speaking to an audience of German industrialists, industry minister Mr Harrington said he was “very happy” to be axed from his post for speaking out over the issue.

He said: “This is a disaster for business and business needs to know where it is, and that doesn’t mean, ‘Oh great, two weeks before we are leaving, now we can rule out crashing out.

“I really don’t believe in this idea. I am very happy to be public about it and very happy if the Prime Minister decides I am not the right person to do the business industry job.

“[A no-deal Brexit] would be a total disaster for the economy, I was delighted to read Airbus’s comments this morning because it is telling it like it is.”

The frontbencher’s comments add to his warning from earlier this month that he would “definitely” quit his job if Britain were to leave without a deal.

Airbus staff work at 25 sites across the UK, including 6,000 in Broughton, Wales and 3,000 in Stevenage and Portsmouth.

Labour MP and supporter of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, Owen Smith, said of the firm’s announcement: “The damage caused by Brexit won't fly with big businesses like Airbus, and certainly won't fly with the British people. Jobs and livelihoods are at risk.”

“If companies like Airbus, or GE Aviation in my own patch, disinvest in Britain as a consequence of our leaving the EU, the Brexiteers in Parliament should never be forgiven."

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: “The warning from Airbus is a stark reminder that the livelihoods of thousands of British workers are at risk from the UK leaving the EU with no deal. 

“The longer the Prime Minister runs down the clock and fails to give businesses certainty to plan, the greater the risk to jobs."

Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, said earlier that he took the intervention “very seriously”.

“What the chief executive and others in the business community are clear on is that they want a deal to avoid the uncertainty of no deal and that is why he is backing the prime minister,” he told MPs.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “Airbus said in their statement that the delivery of a pragmatic withdrawal agreement that allows for an orderly Brexit is best for Britain and that is exactly why the Prime Minister has been working so hard to deliver a deal that gives businesses certainty with an implementation period and an orderly exit.”