Robert HARNEIS –TDO- (FRANCE)- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to increase funding for the European Space Agency by more than 15 per cent, in a bid to safeguard Britain’s role in Europe’s most important space programs. The decision came on the eve of a crucial summit of ESA’s 22 member states in Seville on Wednesday at which the countries will bid for prime places on projects such as the multibillion-euro earth observation program, Copernicus.
The UK, which is ESA’s fourth biggest funder and currently contributes some €350m a year to its programs, is expected to table an increase of significantly more than 15 per cent in its annual subscriptions over the next five years. The funds allocated to ESA, which is independent of the EU, are returned to the UK through industrial contracts. For example, the ESA-funded ExoMars rover was developed by Airbus at its UK facility.
The decision by the prime minister’s office to press ahead with the increase in funding for one of Europe’s most successful collaborative ventures will allay intense UK industry concerns in recent days about Britain’s access to European space programs in the run-up to Brexit next year.
The decision demonstrates the view of many in Britain that European cooperation does not have to mean going through Brussels.