European aerospace giant Airbus has warned it could reconsider its investments in Britain if the country leaves the European Union, as a debate over a planned referendum on the issue intensifies.
"I believe that it is vital for a company such as Airbus to come out and make a stand in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union," Paul Khan, the president of Airbus Group UK, said in a statement released by the company on Thursday.
"If after an exit from the European Union, economic conditions in Britain were less favourable for business than in other parts of Europe, or beyond; would Airbus reconsider future investment in the United Kingdom? Yes, absolutely," he said.
Airbus employs 17,000 people in Britain where it has several facilities, including a wing-manufacturing plant in Broughton, north Wales.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU by 2017 at the latest, saying that he will advocate for Britain to stay in a reformed Europe.
Khan said he supported Cameron's reform intentions.
"I am not blindly supporting Britain’s membership of the EU, nor am I naively ignoring its flaws," he said, adding that he would be in favour of "a leaner and more efficient EU".
The head of Britain's biggest business lobby, the Confederation of British Industry, on Wednesday called for companies to speak out in favour of EU membership.
"Business has increasingly spoken out on this crucial issue and the time has come to turn up the volume," CBI president Mike Rake said.