The EU is attempting to ground Britain’s space industry by freezing out British companies from participating in European space programmes. Despite the fact that the European Space Agency is not an EU institution, documentation seen by BrexitCentral suggests the Commission is demanding the power to cancel existing contracts with companies that are “no longer based in an EU member state”.
Removing UK companies from European Space Agency contracts could delay plans by months or even years. The UK space sector is highly developed and accounts for 6.5% of the global space economy with around 38,500 skilled jobs based in Britain. Nigel Evans, the President of the All-Party Parliamentary Space Committee, blasted the decision, telling BrexitCentral: “This is shocking, bully boy antics from the Commission.
“Funny that they want us to pay into their coffers for contractual obligations but want to summarily end them when it suits them. “They are trying to rewrite the rules – we clearly pay into this project and have for years.”
The Commission’s latest ploy lacks any legitimacy as the ESA is an entirely independent organisation from the EU and includes several non-EU countries. For example, China, Israel, Morocco, Switzerland, and Norway are all part of the ESA’s Galileo project, a global navigation satellite system which aims to improve search and rescue.
The Commission claim British companies will no longer provide enough security guarantees when they are outside of the EU and are threatening to jettison UK firms from the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.
The UK has led the ground control segment of the Galileo programme but faces losing contracts if the European Commission succeeds in forcing UK-based firms to transfer their work to EU-based firms.
The EU accounts for 49% of Britain’s space exports which the UK stands to lose after the Commission’s latest power grab and the damage to EU-based space exploration could be significant if the plans go ahead. UK science minister, Jo Johnson, has complained to the Commission over the new conditions and Downing Street has been urged to bring up the new rules with EU counterparts.