Why Did Airbus Change It’s Mind Over Brexit? Project Fear

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We can all look back and remind ourselves of what we were told was going to happen if we had the temerity to vote to leave the European Union. The economy would be devastated, there would be rains of blood and cats would lie down with dogs. This has not happened and according to the predictions it should have done already. The process of freezing spines in this manner is known as Project Fear – shiver everyones’ goolies and the peasantry will vote to remain the villeins of Brussels.

That didn’t happen either.

One aspect of this was that Airbus would, the moment we so didn’t vote, up sticks and stop making the wings for their aircraft in the UK. Thousands, tens of thousands, would be jobless and bereft and that would serve us all right:

Some in aerospace lampooned it as the “Dr No video”. Sporting a black rollneck, this time last year Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, released a video detailing his frustration at the stalled Brexit process and threatening dire consequences. Industry colleagues compared the message to a Bond baddie’s ultimatum.

Like the original super-villain with his demand for “one million dollars”, former German paratrooper Enders was in no mood to negotiate. “Airbus,” he warned, “is not dependent on the UK for our future. 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.”

Someone should have thought a little more about this. Historically the British have not reacted well to German military types insisting “Ve hav vays of making you…”. Rather more importantly it was always an empty threat.

What’s behind Airbus’s sudden U-turn on Brexit?

There has been no u-turn in anything other than public rhetoric. Things like wing manufacture for modern aircraft are not a building with some machines in it – things that can indeed be packaged up and moved, or replicated elsewhere easily enough. They’re entire ecosystems including those thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of skilled workers. Who cannot and will not all be packaged up and moved nor easily replicated. If Airbus were to move wing manufacture it would take them a good decade, at least. The cost of their doing so would not be worth it either.

That is, the original claim was a nonsense, all that has happened in this u-turn is that whoever was prompting Tom Enders is now admitting that they were just kidding. Kidding for reasons of political rhetoric. Airbus never was going to move wing manufacture out because of Brexit.

All that remains is to wok out how much else of Project Fear was politically motivated lying. Most of it…..

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Pat
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Pat

Indeed. And this presents a major, if not insuperable obstacle to anyone wishing to campaign for rejoin. Project fear was the principal argument for remain, and it cannot be used again. A rejoin campaign would have to depend on other arguments, ones that remain clearly thought were weaker (else they’d have used them instead)

John B
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John B

The argument to join the EEC was juiced by fear-mongering, Britain left behind and sliding into economic ruin as Germany, France, Italy, BeNeLux surged ahead.

This ‘the sky will fall’ message was replayed in the 1975 referendum.

It is a trusted formula which mostly works, non-evidence based, non-falsifiable, hysterical predictions of future calamity – the same format being used for Climate Armageddon.

Many people keep falling for it no matter how often it is wrong.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

It’s almost as though Remain found it really difficult to come up with any convincing, positive arguments for EU membership.

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

Things take time — and the UK has not even left the EU yet. It is a little early to be declaring victory. The big issue facing Airbus is China’s commitment to enter the core of Airbus’s market — the 30 year old A320 series — with its Comac C919, which has the potential to significantly undercut Airbus as well as being more modern. And of course China has certain other advantages over Airbus in the fast growing Asian market where much of the future business lies. It remains to be seen how Airbus will respond to this serious challenge.… Read more »

Barks
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Barks

China is quite another thing from the fear-monger in general.

Briny
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Briny

When they can do the engines, as specified, reliable and fuel efficient, then I can see worrying. They have continuing problems in that field.

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

Airlines usually buy the engines directly from the engine manufacturer, not indirectly from the airframe manufacturer. If the price of wiping out Airbus competition is to use GE engines, why would the Chinese not do that? They might want to avoid Rolls-Royce engines though — apparently the Brits have continuing problems in that field. (OK — I admit it; that last comment may have been accurate, but it was also snide). Within a working lifetime, the US has gone from having three major civilian aircraft manufacturers dominating the world to having only Boeing, and it barely hanging on by the… Read more »

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

It’s not declaring victory, because there was never a battle.

ifabloke
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ifabloke

Quite so. Airbus also has a factory in the UK making undercarriages for the A320 (?), and another in France. (The logic for this, apparently, is that if one is on strike, the other will still produce). In France they make 40 undercarriages a month, in the UK 60. The highly-skilled and highly experienced workers have no intention of moving to the EU; believe me, I play golf with them!

HJ777
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HJ777

Tom Enders was a political appointee to Airbus. When changes were made to the governance arrangements for Airbus, designed specifically to avoid having political appointees on the board, Enders was squeezed out. He only began to make his pronouncements on Brexit after he knew that he was leaving his position and in the full knowledge that he would have no influence on Airbus after Brexit. Even more interesting is that you will have listened in vain for any explanation by Tom Enders of WHY Airbus would want to leave the UK as a result of any kind of Brexit. He… Read more »

Pcar
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Pcar

@HJ777

Yep, BBC simply took Tom Enders words as gospel and presented them as evidence of how harmful Brexit will be as they repeatedly wheeled him out on News and Question Time

Pcar
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Pcar

Enders’ threats were never believable and Airbus employees were well aware of this. Airbus had even started a multi-billion pound expansion a couple of months before ref vote. Seems more have emerged to publicly declare Project Fear was really Project Lie Global chief executives back post-Brexit Britain as driver of growth Chief executives around the world are eyeing up Britain as a key target for growth, viewing the UK as an increasingly stable place to do business in a world beset by political and economic instabilities. The UK is the fourth most important nation for business growth plans behind only… Read more »

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

There is a lot to be said for keeping a positive attitude, but … 75% of French executives do not include the UK in their top 3 growth markets. 80% of US execs do not include the UK in their top 3 targets. 80% of Australian execs do not include the UK in their top 3 targets. 87% of German execs do not see the UK as an important location. 88% of Japanese execs do not include the UK in their top 3 targets. The UK clearly has a lot of room for improvement. There is work to be done.… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Those numbers look surprisingly impressive if you turn them round:
25% of French executives include the UK in their top 3 growth markets.
etc.

Given the UK isn’t near the top 3 largest economies and has boringly staid growth (albeit a bit above G7 average), I’m amazed it’s that many. Most execs asked about international growth markets would quote you China, India, US as the top three without having to pause for thought (whatever the reality).

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

Quentin, old chap — you may notice that if you turn those numbers around, you get back to the original article. The only point is that Brits should not sit around and imagine that wealth will start flowing in simply because some day there will be Brexit. If the wealth starts flowing in, it will be because Brits rolled up their sleeves, repealed ridiculous over-regulation, and started working hard & smart.

starfish
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starfish

Whatever came of those corruption allegations?IIRC there were issues in Austria with a Eurofighter deal and Astirum satellites?

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

..and, largely, over the centuries the Germans have ended up coming second….