Employees working in the UK’s aerospace industry have good reason to be concerned about David Cameron’s pledge to hold an in-out referendum on the EU in 2017.
This is the verdict of Robin Southwell, the chairman of the aerospace industry trade association ADS, who spoke at the organisation’s annual dinner. Mr Southwell highlighted the fact that the UK recently overtook both the US and France as Germany’s single largest trading partner, and that the EU as a whole does more business with UK firms than any other trading block. UK aerospace companies, he emphasized, are at the heart of Europe. He added: “So whatever the outcome for Britain’s role in Europe, we must ensure that we remain part of the European economic community in protecting opportunities for investment, partnership and growth in our sector.”
Other industry experts, including the CBI, echo his sentiments as does the head of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell, both of whom have warned David Cameron that his promise of a EU referendum will foster an atmosphere of uncertainty and may jeopardise investment.
Last year’s failure of the £30 billion merger between Britain’s biggest defence contractor, BAE Systems, and EADS has already mobilised fears that other massive defence and aerospace projects, including work on the new generation of Airbus, will slip away from the UK.
Airbus currently provides work for 10,000 people in the UK and the aerospace industry as a whole is one of the country’s biggest employers with 400,000 workers. ADS estimates that it generates upwards of £60 billion to the economy.