Brexit Space Shutout Means The UK May Go Into Orbit Alone

17th Jun 2022
Brexit Space Shutout Means The UK May Go Into Orbit Alone

The fall-out from Brexit continues, as the UK may invest in its own space plans if it continues to be shut out from the European Union’s programmes.

Approximately £650 million could be redirected from EU space efforts to the UK’s own space programmes by the end of 2022 if it is not allowed to fully participate in the EU’s orbital projects.

On-going problems caused by Brexit negotiations could mean the UK is shut out of the Earth-observing satellite programme, Copernicus, as well as a number of other EU science programmes, including Euratom and Horizon Europe.

“Don’t use science to play hardball”

The UK science minister, George Freeman, travelled to Brussels last week to outline the UK’s stance on the situation to the EC, although he did not hold formal talks with the European Union. 

In his speech, he asked the EC to come to an agreement, stating:

“Please don’t use science to play hardball. If you have to punish the UK, do it some other way.”

He also said that while the UK is 100 per cent committed to the EU collaborative research programme, we won’t be waiting around: 

“I’m not here tonight to tell you that we are walking away. But time is closing. We’re reaching a crunch point.”

Rivalling Horizon Europe with the UK’s own plans

The UK government has stated that it will develop its own £15 billion research programme to rival Horizon Europe if an agreement cannot be reached. 

Labelled as Plan B, it would aim to emulate components of the programme in the EU, yet details regarding how it would operate have not been made clear. 

James Wilsdon, a science-policy researcher from the University of Sheffield, believes that no longer being associated with Horizon and the loss of prestige associated with this would be hard to rectify:

“Part of the prestige of winning an ERC grant is you’ve won a competitive international grant, rather than a knock-off home-grown pastiche.”

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