Brexit unravelling is a pipe dream for most of us, but a recent declaration by a British Minister may indicate that the pipe dream could become reality, eventually.
Britain’s new science minister, George Freeman, has given a clear commitment to European collaboration on research. Speaking at the launch of a new U.K. space strategy, he said international collaboration was vital in helping to advance this fast-growing sector. In particular, he said, strengthening ties with Europe, not diminishing them, is paramount for U.K. interests.
Freeman stated that he is keen to confirm, as soon as possible, associate memberships in key EU science programs. These include the multi-billion-euro “HorizonEU” framework on research and development, and (directly in the context of space) the Copernicus/Sentinel Earth observation system.
“As a very strong “Remain” campaigner in 2016 (he was against Brexit), part of my mission here is to make sure that we deliver a very strong collaboration with Europe, both through the European Space Agency, and through a number of other programmes (sic). We want space to be the first area in which we demonstrate very clearly that the U.K. might have left the European political union, but we’re not leaving the European scientific and cultural and research community. Far from it. In fact, we want to make sure that, post our withdrawal from the EU, we become an even stronger player in that research community. I mentioned Copernicus, specifically – we see it as a vital part of the ecosystem,” he told BBC News. Brexit unravelling?
Mr. Freeman is a minister in Boris Johnson’s government, and for him to say what he did either means there is light at the end of the Brexit tunnel, or he will be fired very quickly. If he isn’t fired that dim light will get a little brighter.
For what it’s worth, I have always believed that the U.K. will eventually come to its senses and realize that “picking up your ball and going home because you don’t like the situation” is juvenile, short-sighted and counter-productive to the country’s interests. But, then, I guess, that’s not a bad description of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and their lying Brexit campaign to leave Europe. Lies that they have both acknowledged publically.
Fortunately, the Brexit agreement between Brussels and London made provision for the U.K. to stay within the science programs of the EU. The publication of a new European space strategy, and a supporting budget in next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review, will clear the way for the Copernicus association. This can’t come soon enough. A number of British companies and universities are worried that, unless matters are sorted soon, they could be edged out of lucrative industrial contracts to build the next wave of Sentinel satellites.
Mr. Freeman used the first day of the virtual U.K. Space Conference to announce the country’s new space strategy. He wants the government to create the right environment for innovation, and that includes full European integration and cooperation. The strategy seeks joined-up thinking in government, and presents itself as a dual initiative between the civil and defense domains. The strategy also outlines how the U.K. can take particular advantage of high-growth areas. At the forefront of these right now is satellite broadband, which would play off the government’s recent $500m (£365m) investment in the OneWeb communications constellation.
But there are emerging markets, too, in areas such as in-orbit servicing, and space debris removal. The strategy wants a focus on these fast risers.
The government has a long-term goal to see the UK take a 10% share of the world space economy, and in the early 2010’s Britain was growing more quickly than the international competition in this respect. But momentum was lost at the end of the 2010s, and the UK’s current share of the world space economy stands at just over 5%. Mr. Freeman’s strategy must become an accelerator.
All this is obviously important for the U.K. and its future, but it is also more important as an indicator of the U.K.’s political future…..hopefully.
It’s a possible indicator of the U.K.’s future, in an integral and comprehensive leadership role of the European Union, once the Buffoon and his sidekick are gone. Brexit unravelling is wishful thinking at the moment, but this may be a harbinger of the future.