Brexit tussle between UK and EU threatens 100 jobs at Airbus satellite HQ in Portsmouth
AEROSPACE firm Airbus is threatening to pull the plug on a key satellite HQ in Portsmouth - putting 100 jobs at risk.
In a major blow for the city, the firm admitted it was looking at moving its Galileo ground control base to the EU.
The revelation comes amid an intensifying row between Britain and Brussels over what role the UK would play in the €10bn (£8.74bn) Galileo satellite system project.
Brussels wants to kick the UK out of the scheme, claiming Britain could not be trusted with Europe’s most sensitive security information after Brexit.
Whitehall is now retaliating, demanding a €1.4bn (£1.22bn) refund of cash the UK has already poured into the scheme, with Britain now exploring plans to launch a new satellite navigation system to rival Galileo.
Amid the uncertainty, Airbus said it was committed to remaining in the project – and to operate from an EU member state after Brexit, meaning it will cut ties with its base in Portsmouth.
A spokesman from the company, which employs 1,000 people in the city, acknowledged the firm’s commitment to shift its ground control services work to the EU post-Brexit ‘puts 100 jobs in Portsmouth at risk’.
The situation has prompted calls for ‘common sense’ to prevail from Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt.
The foreign development secretary said: ‘There is no valid reason to exclude Airbus from this programme.
‘Britain has and will be a partner in this and other such projects, and it is in everyone’s interests to enable Airbus to be able to bid and be a supplier.
‘I have been lobbying on this issue with the company for the past 12 months, including a number of direct interventions by the prime minister.
‘We will all continue to work to get common sense to prevail.’
The dispute over Galileo has become the first tangible impact of Britain’s historic vote to leave Europe.
Greg Clark, the UK business secretary, is reportedly taking legal advice on whether Britain can reclaim the £1.22bn it has already invested in Galileo since the scheme was launched in 2003.
Mr Clark warned any move to exclude the UK from the programme could lead to costly delays.
‘We have made it clear we do not accept the commission’s position on Galileo, which could seriously damage mutually beneficial collaboration on security and defence matters,’ Mr Clark told The Financial Times.
‘Given the UK’s integral role in the programme, any such exclusion could cause years of delays and a cost increase stretching into the billions.’
However, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has said the EU ‘cannot share security-relevant proprietary information with countries outside the EU’.
But he added there were ways Galileo could work with third party countries which would be ‘open’ to the UK in any future negotiation.