Brexit into outer space
After the UK leaves the EU, we will be forging our own way in a brave new world. Control of trade, money and laws will all return to the UK Parliament and we will be sovereign once more. One of most underdiscussed fields is Space. The Space sector gives the UK another unique opportunity for prosperity after Brexit
The UK Space sector is export orientated, with 50% of satellites traded with the EU Member States. After Brexit, our market will no longer end at the boundaries of continental Europe.
Project Fear would make us believe the same scare stories of disrupted supply lines in the event of a bad deal or within a No Deal Brexit. However, this is fatuous and hides the facts with generalizations.
After Brexit, the UK will remain a full member of the European Space Agency. The ESA is separate from the EU, and is an international organisation formed in 1975, with the UK as a founder member.
Today the ESA has 22 members, not all of them European countries – Canada is also involved with ESA missions by paying into the ESA budget as a Cooperating State. Trade will continue and we will still have our say within the ESA, hopefully shaping it into a more freely trading organization in order to facilitate mutual success.
The ESA and the rest of the world will be able to benefit from the UK’s new space hub, due to be opened in Caithness in the Scottish Highlands in 2020. There is £17.3 million of direct funding which will create 40 high skilled jobs. On completion it will create 400 local jobs by 2023. It will facilitate the ESA as well as Space programmes from around the world now we are leaving the EU’s restrictive market.
The UK is one of the technological leaders of Europe. It is in the ESA’s interest to continue their cooperation with the UK. Every £1 of public spending generates £3-4 in value for the recipients in the space industry, with additional wider spill-over benefits to the UK economy.
The demanding environment means investments in space generate new knowledge and innovations which extend beyond the space industry. For example, satellites provide services which enable a wide range of economic activities supporting industries worth £300 billion to the UK.
Britain has set the ambitious target of achieving a 10 percent share of the global space market by 2030. The sector is dominated by the US, Russia, and China.
Our space industry’s two strongest commercial sectors are broadcasting and communications, whose total income was £13.7 billion in the financial year 2014/15. With adequate Government and private investment, this figure will be dwarfed in the coming years.
Current trends of investment are very positive. The Seraphim Space Index, a publication of global venture capital investment in the space technology sector, concluded 9 companies in the UK received $32 million worth of funding from venture capitalists during 2017. In the following year, it had increased to $185 million invested into 20 companies. The investment is increasing as the opportunities for profit increase.
The opportunities are real. The space industry will be worth nearly $3 trillion in 30 years, the Bank of America predicts. “UKspace”, the trade association for the UK’s space industry has published its growth plan for the sector which aims to double the worth of space industrial activities across the economy from £250 billion to £500 billion. The is an opportunity which the UK must grab with both hands as we relieve ourselves from the EU’s shackles.
President Trump’s Administration has announced the establishment of a Space Force fully operational by 2020. The main aim of this new military branch will be to safeguard the US’s interests in Space. If the US is willing to invest in military capacity to protect its economic potential, then this is a clear indication that Space is a market the UK must invest in.
The US are the natural partners of Britain for the future. We have cooperated with the US in previous decades and the British Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has commented that the United Kingdom is open to working with the US to construct a new global navigation satellite system.
This was in response to the UK being frozen out of the Galileo Space program by the European Union. The two Galileo Sensor Stations located on the Falkland and Ascension Islands are being removed. It is scandalous we are being frozen out of a program in which Britain invested more than £1 billion. Under a No Deal Brexit, there will be free access for all UK users to Galileo and the UK will not pay be contributing to the further development of Galileo.
The UK Government will invest £92 million into creating a UK Global Navigation Satellite System. This will create jobs and give Britain a bespoke system to meet our needs. It will provide an excellent opportunity for UK businesses to win contracts and develop new technologies.
The UK stands on the precipice of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This revolution will be a technological revolution which will change the makeup of the UK economy for the next century.
The costs of space are declining, accessibility is increasing and the commercial opportunities are beyond contemplation. When we Get Britain Out of the EU we must use our newfound regulatory freedom and technological expertise to achieve our true potential.
Joel Casement is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out
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