Airbus chief softens Brexit tone, calls on EU to go easy on May

LONDON • Airbus SE CEO Tom Enders (picture) called on the European Union (EU) to acknowledge the British government’s new, softer negotiating stance toward Brexit, lending a measure of support to embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.

“The Chequers statement appears to show that HM Government are going in the right direction,” Enders said at a German Chamber of Commerce event in London, according to a tweet posted late on Monday by Toulouse, France-based Airbus. “We are not shy to request that Brussels and our other home countries are similarly pragmatic and fair.”

The message is more conciliatory than two weeks ago, when the European planemaker threatened to pull back on investment amid the rising risk of a so-called hard Brexit — a warning followed by companies including BMW AG, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce Holdings plc. Since then, May unveiled a new proposal at her Chequers retreat that would keep Britain close to the EU on trade and regulations — prompting a mutiny in her ranks that she’s now trying to quell.

Just last week, Enders was ratcheting up criticism of the UK over its handling of the talks. May’s administration has “no clue or consensus on how to execute Brexit without severe harm,” Enders said at a briefing in London on July 6. The manufacturer has repeatedly warned about a risk of disruption, and a sidelining of the UK when it comes to future aerospace projects.

The UK is a major site for Airbus, where the company makes the wings for all its aircraft. — Bloomberg