Prime Minister Theresa May insisted UK would remain key aerospace innovator
UK pitches for leading aerospace role post-Brexit
Amid fears over a post-Brexit manufacturing slump, British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged on Monday to ensure that the UK remained a leader in aerospace industry.
“We are leaving the European Union and forging a new future for our country,” she said in a speech opening the world’s second-largest airshow at Farnborough, southern England, yesterday.
“And as we do so, I want to ensure that the UK remains one of the best places in the world for aerospace companies to do business. To continue as world leaders in innovation,” Mrs May said.
She said the government would provide £343 million of investment for research and development projects and to boost productivity.
Plane makers racked up more than $20 billion of deals on the opening day of the show, including delivery firm DHL's $4.7bn order for 14 Boeing 777 freighters, and purchase rights for seven additional freighters, while European rival Airbus signed agreements for Taiwanese start-up StarLux Airlines to buy 17 of its A350 wide-body planes worth around $6bn at list prices, and with an unidentified leasing firm for 80 A320neo single-aisle jets worth about $8.8bn.
This year’s show follows concerns expressed by the industry that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could have a major impact on the industry. Airbus, which employs 14,000 people, last month threatened to leave the UK if the government failed to strike a deal that would guarantee its supply lines with Europe.
An industry report last year found that annual turnover for the UK aerospace industry was £32bn in 2017 and it employed 120,000 people in the UK.
Mrs May claimed that a Brexit deal struck with her Cabinet earlier this month – that resulted in three ministers quitting – would ensure friction-less trade with Europe, relied on by major industry players such as Bombardier, Rolls-Royce and Airbus.
“Let us work together to build a leading aerospace nation. A nation where, post Brexit, we are considered the best place in the world for the aerospace industry to base its business,” said Mrs May.
Aviation leaders had appeared to differ on their approach when Britain leaves the UK. Boeing chief Dennis Muilenberg told the BBC that, while he was concerned over the free flow of goods and services, Boeing was taking a long-term view and would “continue to grow in the UK”.
This differed sharply from Airbus UK boss Tom Enders, who said it could pull its production out of the UK if Britain quit the bloc without a transition deal – putting 14,000 jobs directly at risk and another 110,000 through its supply chain.
However, Mr Enders more recently said the UK was moving in the right direction when Mrs May’s cabinet agreed a new, "softer" approach to Brexit last Thursday. This would entail some sort of relationship with the EU single market rather than breaking away completely.
At Farnborough, Mrs May was keen to emphasise this to aerospace chiefs. “We know from our discussions with you, and other industries, how friction at the border would not just jeopardise the uniquely integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes on which millions of jobs and livelihoods depend – but how divergence in regulations could result in complex and expensive multiple tests for different markets.”
Britain's Defence Minister Gavin Williamson unveiled a model of the country's proposed new fighter jet named Tempest at the Farnborough show and said it would seek international partners to help develop the project, according to Reuters.
The government said £2bn (Dh9.74bn) had been earmarked to finance the project out to 2025 and that additional funding would be provided by its industrial partners on the project.