The bosses of Airbus and Aston Martin have cautiously backed Theresa May’s draft Brexit agreement as the prime minister faced intense political pressure at Westminster.
Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said the deal was a “welcome first step”, while Aston Martin’s Andy Palmer warned that a no-deal scenario would be a disaster as it would result in tariffs and border delays.
It comes after a hastily-arranged conference call on Wednesday evening in which Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark urged representatives from firms including Airbus to back the agreement.
Business bodies including the CBI and the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have also lined up to give the agreement a cautious welcome.
France-based aircraft maker Airbus, which employs 14,000 people in the UK, has been one of the most vocal inward investors in the UK to warn on its future in Britain because of uncertainty about its supply chain.
Mr Enders said in a statement on Thursday: “The announcement of a draft Brexit withdrawal agreement is a welcome first step forwards but there clearly remains much work to do.
“We look forward to further clarity and the removal of uncertainty as soon as possible so that Airbus, like every business in the UK, can properly plan for the future.”
The intervention of the head of Aston Martin, which employs 2,700 people, came as the car maker reported third quarter results
Mr Palmer said the deal “appears to be good enough” but the company would not halt contingency plans, which could see parts flown in through airports rather than shipped to Dover, while doubts remained over whether it would receive parliamentary backing.
He added: “No-deal Brexit is a disaster… because you’re into tariffs at the borders, you’re into essentially logjams at the border, you’re into discussions about your labour.”
On Wednesday, Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier told Sky News the agreement was not ideal but would mean “much lower friction” than a no-deal scenario, adding: “As a business we can make it work so let’s get on with it.”
Meanwhile, Sky News revealed that Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark urged dozens of business leaders, in a hastily-arranged conference call, to back the draft and avoid the “chaos” of a no-deal.
They addressed bosses including representatives from Airbus, Aviva, Barclays, Grant Thornton and Standard Life Aberdeen.
Mr Palmer made his comments as Aston Martin reported its first quarterly results since its stock market float in August.
Profits rose to £3.1m in the third quarter compared to just £300,000 in the same period last year, as sales volumes doubled to 1,776 vehicles and revenues rose 81% to £282.4m.
It was helped by sales nearly tripling in the Americas and nearly doubling in Far East markets, and the company said full-year sales were on course to come in at the top end of expectations.
But Aston Martin, in common with other car makers, also faces the challenge of having to make contingency plans to counter supply chain disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It has previously said that it would consider flying in car components and moving parts through UK ports other than Dover to avoid border delays in such a scenario.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said that for the car industry, Brexit was about “damage limitation”.
He said: “The outline agreement is a positive step in avoiding the devastating consequences of ‘no deal’ and securing a transition period.”
Earlier, CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, said the draft deal represented “progress”.
“It moves the UK one step away from the nightmare precipice of no deal and the harm it would cause to communities across the country.”
(c) Sky News 2018: Airbus and Aston Martin back May’s Brexit plan