Siemens, Airbus Warn Brexit Would Put Jobs at Risk as Vote Looms

  • Business chiefs signal damage to future investment and jobs
  • TUC warns of 38-pound hit to weekly wages if U.K. leaves EU

A scale model of a plane is prepared for testing in the Airbus Filton's low speed wind tunnel facility.

Photographer: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Bosses of Siemens AG, Airbus Group SE and GKN Plc will issue a warning that a vote to leave the European Union later this month would endanger future investment and manufacturing jobs, as the “Remain” campaign steps up efforts to show how a so-called Brexit would hurt ordinary workers.

Quitting the EU would put at risk more than 107,000 manufacturing jobs that the Centre for Economics and Business Research projects will be created by 2030 because of a deepening of the 28-nation bloc’s single market, the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign said in an e-mailed statement.

Airbus’s U.K. president, Paul Kahn, GKN Chief Executive Officer Nigel Stein and Siemens U.K. CEO Juergen Maier will share a platform in Bristol, western England, on Wednesday to deliver their warnings.

“The economic disruption and uncertainty that would accompany a ‘Leave’ vote would inevitably impact on long-term investment decisions,” Kahn is due to say. A Brexit would make Britain “less attractive,” according to Stein, with Maier warning the country will “miss out on fantastic future opportunities and the jobs and economic prosperity that go with them.” Their three companies employ a combined 35,000 people in Britain.

Investor concerns about the outcome of the June 23 referendum were demonstrated Tuesday when the pound dropped after an ICM phone poll unexpectedly put “Leave” in front. The question now is whether the poll was an outlier following a series of surveys showing the “Remain” camp in the lead, or whether it marks the start of a broader shift toward “Leave.”

‘Fantasy Economics’

The campaign has become increasingly heated in recent days, with both sides deriding each other’s arguments about the fallout of the referendum result.

On Tuesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne attacked the assertion that leaving the EU would lead to cheaper energy bills as “fantasy economics,” saying taxes would rise instead. Brexit supporters seized on a report from Migration Watch, which campaigns for more controls on immigration, saying as many as 480,000 refugees who have fled to Europe since the start of 2015 could head to Britain after 2020 if voters opt to stay in. 

The “Remain” campaign is now trying to reach out to ordinary workers to show how they benefit from EU membership. In a fillip to its efforts, the Trades Union Congress, Britain’s umbrella labor body, released a report on Wednesday arguing that a Brexit could push manufacturing into a “steep decline,” with average weekly wages 38 pounds ($55) lower by 2030.

‘Continuing Hardship’

“For millions of workers, it’s the difference between heating or eating, between struggling or saving, and between getting by or getting on,” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said in a statement. “At a time of continuing hardship, Brexit would be a disaster for working people -- for our wages, for our jobs and for our rights.”

O’Grady was backed up by the opposition Labour Party, whose business spokeswoman, Angela Eagle, said in a statement that leaving the EU “would hit working people hard, prolonging the squeeze on wages. It would also be a devastating blow to our manufacturing sector, which depends on access to the largest single market in the orld.”

‘Becoming Absurd’

The “Leave” side hit back at the CEBR report.

“These daily threats are becoming absurd,” John Longworth, who heads the Vote Leave Business Council, said in an e-mailed statement. “The jobs they refer to don’t even exist -- so how can they be at risk?”

The ICM telephone poll put “Leave” on 45 percent compared with 42 percent for “Remain.” The pollster questioned 1,004 respondents from May 27 to May 29. A simultaneous online poll of 2,052 adults also gave “Leave” a 3-point lead.

The findings of the phone survey were “interesting and unexpected,” Anthony Wells, the YouGov Plc research director who runs the U.K. Polling Report website, said by phone. It’s “very out of line in terms of other telephone polls,” which have been showing leads of about 8-10 points for “Remain.”

“Suddenly showing ‘Leave’ ahead raises all sorts of questions,” Wells said. He raised two caveats: Firstly, it’s only one poll, raising the question of whether it will actually be echoed by other telephone surveys; and secondly it was conducted over a bank-holiday weekend, when it may be harder to reach respondents if they’re away for short vacation breaks.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc shortened its odds on leaving the EU, noting “the sheer volume of bets for Brexit coupled with the latest poll movement.” Even so, its probability of a Brexit is still only 23 percent.

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