Stevenage employer Airbus Defence and Space urges UK-based staff to vote to stay in June’s EU referendum

The Mars Rover, built by Airbus in Stevenage.

The Mars Rover, built by Airbus in Stevenage. - Credit: Archant

Major Stevenage employer Airbus Defence and Space has today written to its 15,000 UK-based staff warning about the risks of voting to leave the European Union in June’s referendum – but it insists that regardless of the result their jobs are not in danger.

The letter says it makes ‘good economic sense’ to remain in the EU, but that Airbus is committed to its present UK operations even if the ‘leave’ campaigners carry the day when the country goes to the polls.

Staff are told: “Airbus Group’s success in the UK is predicated on a highly competitive, integrated European business model.

“We firmly believe that it makes good economic sense to stay inside the EU, which has helped make the company the global success story it is today.

“Apart from anything else, we simply don’t know what ‘out’ looks like.”

Airbus was one of hundreds of businesses which signed a pro-remain letter to the Times in February. The campaign to leave has claimed support from about 250 business leaders.

In addition to its 15,000 workers at 25 sites across the UK, generating £6 billion per year, Airbus says it indirectly creates another 100,000 jobs among UK suppliers.

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It also has large operations in France, Germany and Spain.

An Airbus spokesman told the Comet: “We’ve done this to make sure the employees know how the company is approaching this.

“We’re not telling them how to vote – that’s part of why we’re doing it now, ahead of time, rather than right beforehand.

“This is a massive issue that we, the British people, will have to decide.

“In any case we are fully committed to our current operations in the UK and to their jobs.”

The spokesman said that the matter at hand was the direction of the company’s future investment.

“This isn’t about our current operations – it’s our future operations in five, 10, 20 years’ time,” he said.

“We invest in the UK as it’s a competitive jurisdiction. For the UK to attract future investment it needs to continue to be competitive globally.

“If the UK leaves, we don’t know if the UK will still be as competitive as it has been.”

Asked if a vote to leave might affect operations at Stevenage, the spokesman said he could not speculate on the matter.

The Airbus letter stresses the free movement of ‘products, people and ideas around Europe’ as an extremely important part of the firm’s business model.

“It is reasonable for us as a responsible UK leadership team to explain to you why we think it is important for us to stay,” it says.

“Should the British electorate have a different view then clearly we wouldn’t cease our activities in the UK, which are highly important and very prominent.

“However, our business model is entirely based on our ability to move products, people and ideas around Europe without any restriction and we do not believe leaving will increase the competitiveness of our British-based operations.

“We all need to keep in the back of our minds that future investments depend very much on the economic environment in which the company operates.

“In fact we believe that the UK remaining active in reforming the EU can improve our position, and as a commercial business that operates in a globally competitive environment we need to maintain every competitive advantage in the UK we have.”