Airbus CEO Hammers UK Leadership on Brexit

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Ronn Torossian, Founder & CEO, 5WPR

Some brands work very hard to stay completely out of politics, at least on the public policy level. Others seem to revel in a direct connection with policymakers, whether the support their efforts or oppose them. In the case of Brexit, many businesses that are based or very active in Europe have spoken out, offering clear and strong statements for or against the referendum that will remove the United Kingdom from the European Union.

One of the businesses that has been anything but shy about the nature of the company’s feelings on the subject of Brexit has been Airbus. CEO Tom Enders recently told reporters the British government had “no clue” how to successfully execute Brexit.

“The sun is shining brightly on the UK, the English [soccer] team is progressing towards the final, the RAF is preparing to celebrate its centenary and [the UK government] still has no clue, no consensus on how to execute Brexit without severe harm…” Enders said.

Now, apart from the fact that England is no longer in the World Cup, having been stunned by Croatia, Enders found a ripe audience for his comments. The British public remains divisively split on the subject of Brexit, with fewer people trying to find middle or common ground. Fears about what it will mean for the British economy already have political leaders talking about half-measures and partial steps leading to a not-as-complete exit from the EU as supporters would like.

Many believe Enders is speaking for quite a few British or EU businesses, who don’t quite know what their futures will look like after Brexit… This unknown has them worried, as the deadline for Brexit is set in just nine months. In addition to European companies such as Airbus (France) and BMW (Germany), British companies such as Jaguar and Land Rover have gone on record saying Brexit would be bad for their business. Given all these big-name brands speaking out about Brexit in such a negative way, they have to be relatively certain the political commentary will not damage their brand. Or, at least, that any damage to their brand will be offset by gains based on their perspectives.

That’s a tough calculus to figure out ahead of time, but these companies believe their math checks out. Enders, especially, has been outspoken about the British government’s handling of Brexit and the consequences those decisions could have for his company. Airbus is on record as saying if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place it would be “catastrophic” for the company, creating “chaos” in production and, potentially, “threatening its future” in Britain.

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