City A.M.: Hunt blasts Airbus for ‘inappropriate threats’

HEALTH secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday rebuked Airbus for threatening to pull investment because of Brexit, describing its intervention as “completely inappropriate”.

Last week, Airbus warned it could leave the UK in the event of a hard Brexit, putting around 14,000 jobs at risk. It said it would consider moving out of the UK if there is no transition deal involving ongoing membership of the Single Market and customs union.

Hunt told the BBC yesterday the country was at a “critical moment” in the Brexit negotiations that demanded unity, and urged businesses to “get behind” Theresa May to deliver the “best possible Brexit”.

He warned: “The more that we undermine Theresa May the more likely we are to end up with a fudge, which would be an absolute disaster for everyone.”

Following the rebuke, the Institute of Directors hit back at Hunt, saying businesses had “every right to speak up about their needs”, suggesting the decision had not been taken lightly.

International trade secretary Liam Fox also threw his weight behind May, telling Sky News the government was “not kidding” when it said it was serious about walking away with no deal if the EU offered a bad deal.

“Our European partners would be foolish to think that because the Prime Minister is very considered and very pragmatic that she’s bluffing,” he said.

The warnings came as May was criticised on by Leavers and Remainers for the slow progress made in talks.

In one letter, organised by the Economists for Free Trade (EFT) and seen by City A.M., pro-Brexit business leaders including Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin called on May to take an “assertive” approach at a crunch EU Council meeting in Brussels, and to remember her mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

It said the UK should not be afraid to revert to a World Trade Deal under World Trade Organisation rules if Brussels refuses a free trade deal.

The EFT letter coincided with separate correspondence from pro-EU business groups following on from Airbus‘s interjection. “In recent days and weeks, an increasing number of companies have made clear… they are now actively considering moving substantial volumes of work away from the UK. We know that many more large businesses are close behind in their plans,” it warned.

To read the City A.M. report in full, click here.

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