Airbus Urges Compromises On Brexit And Transatlantic Tariffs
The head of European plane maker Airbus has called for an end to separate diplomatic squabbles over Britain's exit from the European Union and a transatlantic aircraft subsidy dispute that collectively overshadow its business.
Chief executive Guillaume Faury said that Airbus, the manufacturing plants of which straddle Britain and the EU, is preparing for disruption if Britain completes its exit from the bloc without a deal, but downplayed warnings of severe upheaval.
"It would really be a pity that after so many years of preparation there is no deal at the end. I think it would be much better for the EU and the UK to have an orderly Brexit," Faury told a conference.
"This being said, if there is no deal we will have to live with it. There will be a more difficult transition on December 31 and we are preparing ourselves for some logistical issues, but we don't think this is going to be unmanageable," he added.
His comments came after Britain's manufacturing industry warned of a potential "knockout blow" if Prime Minister Boris Johnson is unable to secure a trade deal with the EU before temporary arrangements end on December 31.
Faury also called for compromise in a dispute over aircraft subsidies in which the EU and the United States have both imposed tariffs on multiple goods.
"We are calling for a de-escalation...and finding a long-term agreement between the US and the EU, and we think this is what will happen," Faury told the Conference of Montreal.
"And it will happen under the Biden administration, but I think it would have happened anyway," he added.
Diplomats say that the EU and outgoing Trump administration are in "serious" negotiations to end the 16 year old trade fight, which has come to a head just as Britain leaves the EU.
Airbus found itself squeezed between the two sets of trade negotiations last week when Britain halted tariffs on US goods adopted in support of Airbus as it completes its EU exit.
Industry sources said that the decision, contradicting earlier UK signals that tariffs would stay, ended unity among Airbus backers Britain, France, Germany and Spain, and precipitated the worst cross-Channel rift over aerospace in decades.
Faury reiterated that Airbus will leave current wings output in Britain but will decide the level of investment in the country for future programmes based on UK competitiveness.
Airbus is also at odds with Canada, where it builds the small A220 jet after buying the programme from Bombardier Inc in 2018. Faury said that he is disappointed by the level of support for aviation from Ottawa, in contrast with bailouts elsewhere.
Airbus has called for urgent help for airlines in Canada, where the government is in talks with carriers and airports.
Airlines globally have been battered by the COVID-19 crisis, dragging down aircraft demand and forcing plane makers to cut output.
Faury said that Airbus will maintain its reduced output of 40 A320-family jets a month into early 2021, but did not address the timing or scale of any output increase.
Airbus has asked suppliers to be ready to support 47 a month by July, partly restoring the pre-crisis monthly output of 60, but some suppliers say that this may slip to the end of 2021 or early 2022.
Speaking by video link at a conference that had to take place virtually this year because of coronavirus restrictions, Faury said that it is vital to restore flights as vaccines are rolled out.
Most Business Will Still Need To Be Conducted In Person
But Faury said that he is not one of those fearing that premium travel will be severely impacted forever by the new technology, saying most business will still need to be conducted in person.