Tory government has 'no clue' how to do Brexit without 'severe harm' declares Airbus chief

The Tory government has ‘no clue’ how to do Brexit without causing significant harm to Britain, he head of Airbus has said.

Tom Enders’ warning came as EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier complained there were “still too few answers” – despite offering Britain an olive branch.

The twin interventions were made while the Tory Cabinet were holed up in a 12-hour summit at Chequers to thrash out the UK’s Brexit plan.

Mr Enders, chief executive of the European plane giant, said: “The sun is shining brightly on the UK, the English team is progressing towards the final, the RAF is preparing to celebrate its centenary.

“And Her Majesty’s Government still has no clue, no consensus on how to execute Brexit without severe harm.”

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Chequers Brexit summit

Airbus, which has 14,000 UK staff, triggered a backlash in the Tory party last month

Airbus, which has 14,000 UK staff, triggered a backlash in the Tory party last month after threatening to pull out of the country in a no deal Brexit.

Mr Enders said today: “Rest assured we are taking first preparations as we speak in order to be able to mitigate consequences from whatever Brexit scenario may follow.

“Make no mistake – Brexit, in whatever form, soft or hard, light or clean or whatever you call it, will be damaging for the industry, for our industry, for other industries and damaging for the UK whatever the outcome will be.”

Meanwhile the EU today told Britain there were still too many unanswered questions over Brexit.

Meanwhile the EU’s Michel Barnier warned there were too many unanswered questions

Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: “In the Brexit negotiations, there are still too many questions and too few answers.”

But he also stretched out an olive branch to Britain – as long as Theresa May gives some ground.

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Mr Barnier said: “As the European Council has made clear, we are ready – I am ready – to adapt our offer should the UK’s red lines change.

“Time is short. We need to quickly have realistic and workable solutions and obviously we look forward to the UK’s White Paper.

“The UK’s proposals will facilitate both the UK’s internal political debate and negotiation with us.

“Our objective has always been to find an agreement with the UK, not against the UK.”

Ahead of Donald Trump’s visit next week the US Ambassador said the President would be discussing a future trade deal and was confident the UK would secure a good deal.

Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson said: “We’re not advocating hard or soft. We know that Great Britain is going to do very very well. We have a lot of confidence in the people here and we know what they’re capable of doing.”

What is the customs union – and what are the UK’s options after Brexit?

The EU has a ‘customs union’. This means the 28 states trade EU goods for free – and set an equal tariff on non-EU goods. For example, US car imports to the EU are taxed at 10%.

Being in this customs union helps the UK, because the EU is our biggest trading partner and it prevents lorry checks at the border.

Theresa May wants the UK to leave it because otherwise, Britain will have to follow EU rules and cannot strike trade deals around the world.

But this creates a huge row with Brussels – and a headache of how to keep the border open between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic (EU).

Britain was looking at two options:

Customs partnership: Liked by Remainers, branded “idiotic” by Brexiteers. Britain would stick close to EU tariffs on imports and collect them on behalf of the EU. If the UK tariff is lower than the EU one, firms would be able to reclaim the difference.

Maximum Facilitation – ‘Max Fac’: Liked by Brexiteers, but could cost firms £20bn a year. Would keep the UK separate from Brussels rules. High-tech tracking devices would try to cut bureaucracy. E.g. “Trusted” firms could pay tariffs at regular intervals, not every time they cross a border.

Both options were rejected so now Tories are reportedly considering this ‘third way’:

Facilitated Customs Arrangement: A compromise. The UK would leave blanket EU tariffs, allowing us to set our own import duties. But if goods are “unfinished” or destined to end up in the EU, Britain would still collect EU tariffs on Brussels’ behalf. And crucially, the UK would keep many of the same rules – “regulatory alignment” – as the EU on standards of goods.


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