Friday, 23 August 2019
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Brexit will affect space

Britain will stay in the European Space Agency (ESA) if it leaves the EU but will have to renegotiate terms to continue participating in certain projects.

Speaking in London this week at ‘Space four Inspiration’, ESA director-general Jan Woerner stated: “The UK will remain a member state of ESA, this is very clear.”

“But of course, as we are also dealing with European programmes like Copernicus and Galileo, and also the question of UK citizens working on the continent and all these legal issues, we have to take it into account.”

Speaking in Paris, Jean Bruston, head of ESA’s EU policy office, said ESA remained autonomous from the European Union and should not be directly affected by the ‘Brexit’.

Twenty EU countries – including Britain – belong to ESA, along with two other non-EU countries Norway and Switzerland.

Apart from its ESA participation, Britain is also party to several EU-driven space programmes.

These include the Copernicus satellite system to monitor environmental damage and boost disaster relief, and Horizon 2020, which seeks to boost scientific research and innovation.

“As soon as Britain leaves the EU it will not be participating in these programmes any longer,” said Bruston.

UK-based companies hold contracts worth tens of millions of euros from ESA to supply hardware for Copernicus as well as the Galileo satellite navigation system, a rival to America’s GPS.

“If nothing changes and Brexit goes ahead we would have to halt these contracts,” added Bruston.

Britain could still contribute to Galileo and Copernicus if it negotiated a third-party agreement with the EU, which is what Norway and Switzerland have done.

As non-EU members, they make project-specific contributions to the EU which means ESA can then place contracts with companies in those countries.

Tweaks would have to be made in the existing EU-ESA agreement for the UK to follow suit, explained Bruston.

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