The Canadian-aerospace and rail manufacturer Bombardier will sell its operations in Belfast, Northern Ireland in a pre-emptive move ahead of Brexit.

The company’s committed to finding a buyer that can improve productivity and competitiveness. The plant supplies parts to Bombardier and Airbus, producing engine casings, fuselages, and wings.

With over 3,600 workers, Bombardier is Northern Ireland’s biggest employers. The company already shed 490 jobs in November 2018, which was part of an effort to increase productivity and the value proposition of the manufacturing centre. The current levels of employment are half of what they were in 2002. What is currently at stake is not only Bombardier’s direct employees but also a supply chain in Northern Ireland that includes many small and medium-sized companies.

One of the buyers rumoured to have expressed an interest is the US-based aerostructures manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems, which has a UK base in Prestwick, Scotland and recently acquired Belgium’s Asco Industries.

The Montreal-based Bombardier has 68,000 employees in 28 countries. It is now gradually leaving commercial aviation, having sold an important line of production to Airbus.