Monday

24th Sep 2018

Brexit could affect UK space industry

  • A Brexit would not prevent Britons like Timothy Peake from going into space. It could however cause UK industry to miss out on some business (Photo: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

The director-general of the European Space Agency hopes that British people will choose to stay members of the European Union.

“I'm a strong believer in Europe, and I hope they will decide in favour,” Johann-Dietrich Woerner told journalists in Prague on Monday (9 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But if the UK referendum on 23 June does end with a majority of voters asking to leave the EU, as some polls indicate, that would not mean the end of the UK's cooperation with other European nations on space activities.

The European Space Agency is an intergovernmental organisation, separate from the European Union. There is no requirement for ESA members to be part of the EU, noted Woerner.

Two ESA members, Switzerland and Norway, are not EU states. There is even a non-European country with close ties with ESA: Canada is a so-called associate member.

Formally speaking, nothing would have to change with regard to the UK's membership of ESA in case of a Brexit. But ESA and the EU are closely linked.

“There is so much beyond 'formally speaking'. What do we do with Copernicus?”, noted Woerner.

The €4.3 billion Copernicus programme is a joint initiative by ESA and the EU which is made up of several Earth observation missions. Two weeks ago, its fourth satellite was launched from Guyana.

The programme is one of the most-discussed topics at this week's Living Planet symposium, being held in Prague.

The Copernicus project provides data on issues ranging from climate change to oil drilling opportunities. Once in space, the satellites are owned by the EU.

Volker Liebig, director of Earth observation programmes at ESA, told journalists at the conference many things are unclear if there is a Brexit.

“The intergovernmental structures would be more or less stable in this respect,” he said.

“But Copernicus is an example where we have a communitarian component and an intergovermental component,” he said, noting that it is unclear what will happen to the communitarian (EU) part. He added that if there is political will, there can be a resolution.

His boss, Woerner, voiced similar optimism. “I'm sure the [European] commission will find a solution for it,” he said.

However, Woerner noted that a Brexit would have “a negative effect” on the British space industry.

If an ESA programme is funded by the EU, or partly funded, any contracts for that part can only be granted to companies from an EU country.

“One thing is clear: contracts go to the countries which are part of the European Union for all budgets coming from the European Union”, said Liebig. The only exception is if a certain product or service is not available in the EU.

By way of reference, an evaluation of Canada's cooperation agreement with ESA published in 2015, the Canadian government noted that its non-membership of the EU has caused some “challenges”.

The report said that “there is evidence that Canadian officials will need to open discussions with the EU in tandem with ESA in negotiating the next Canada/ESA Cooperation Agreement prior to 2019 if Canada wishes to maximize access to both the ESA and EU space markets.”

Jim Carter, Europe Space Business director at outsourcing company Serco, doesn't think there will be a Brexit.

However, if there is one, he told EUobserver at the Prague event, the UK would also need to find a way to continue participating in science programme Horizon2020, and navigation programme Galileo.

“Maybe two years is a little optimistic for negotiating our exit,” he said, referring to the expected time period needed to conclude the divorce talks between the UK and the EU.

Analysis

EU's Article 50: the rules for Brexit

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty contains the rules that a member state wishing to leave the EU must follow. But it has never been used and leaves many unanswered questions on Brexit.

French and Italians want UK-type votes on EU

Italians and French say in a poll they want a referendum on the EU, as British PM Cameron prepares to invoke the perils of "isolationism" and WWII in a pro-EU speech.

EU's new strategy shuns space exploration

The commission wants to focus on the commercial potential of space rather than the educational or scientific benefits, much to the annoyance of some MEPs.

Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU

The justice commissioner says the accommodation-rental website will better inform users about prices, and about the legal status of their 'hosts'. Facebook, however, could face sanctions if it doesn't comply with EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us