By Andrew MacAskill
A British government minister has accused Airbus and other major companies of issuing “completely inappropriate” threats and undermining Theresa May in a sign of growing tensions with businesses over Brexit.
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus last week issued its strongest warning over the impact of Britain’s departure from the EU, saying a withdrawal without a deal would force it to reconsider its long-term position and put thousands of British jobs at risk.
Other European companies with major operations in Britain have also started to speak out two years on from the Brexit vote, voicing concerns over a lack of clarity on the terms of trade when Britain leaves next March.
“It was completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats... — we are in an absolutely critical moment in the discussions and what that means is that we need to get behind Theresa May,” Britain’s health minister Jeremy Hunt told the BBC.
“The more that we undermine Theresa May the more likely we are to end up with a fudge which will be absolute disaster for everyone.”
German carmaker BMW has warned the company would have to make contingency plans within months if the UK government did not soon clarify its post-Brexit position and German industrial group Siemens said it urgently needs clarity on how its operations would have to be organised.
The leaders of five major business lobby groups also warned Ms May over the weekend that the ongoing uncertainty about Brexit could cost the UK economy billions of pounds.
With only nine months until Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, little is clear about how trade will flow as Ms May, who is grappling with a divided party, is still trying to strike a deal with the bloc.
Business leaders are increasingly concerned that their concerns are being ignored and are stepping up their contingency plans in case Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.
Britain’s international trade minister Liam Fox said Britain’s negotiating position was being undermined by companies urging the government to rule out leaving without a deal.