British businesses are being snubbed for high-profile and lucrative space contracts run through the European Space Agency because of Brexit – even though the organisation is not an European Union body.
MPs on the Business Select Committee heard how the UK aerospace sector is missing out on work because of Britain’s decision to quit the EU.
Giving evidence on Brexit’s impact on Britain’s £13bn-a-year aerospace industry, Simon Henley, president-elect of the Royal Aeronautical Society, said UK companies were losing out.
He cited the Galileo satellite navigation programme as one example where British companies were being excluded, with reports of them being stopped from bidding for work.
"Membership of the European Space Agency is not part of the EU discussions as it’s not an EU body, [but] many of the contracts, including Galileo, are EU-funded,” Mr Henley said.
"And it's a requirement the companies that participate and get funding for their contracts are part of an EU country, so we're seeing contracts turned away from UK industry.”
Also giving evidence to MPs was Airbus’s UK boss, Katherine Bennett. The pan-European plane-maker employs about 15,000 staff in the UK, producing wings for its airliners at its plant in Broughton, North Wales, and designing wings and other systems in Bristol. It also has a space-focused site in Stevenage.
She warned that Brexit may mean Airbus winding down operations in the UK as future investment goes elsewhere.
Ms Bennett added: "Other countries would love to design and build wings [for us] and some already do – we actually build wings in China, and believe me they are knocking at the door as a result of the situation we find ourselves in in the UK."
Other Airbus plants in countries around Europe would also be keen to take on building wings, she added.