Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn, speaking at the biennial Farnborough Air Show, has said that the country is "at a crossroads" in regards to Brexit. The government and aerospace companies must work together to ensure future success and maintain the UK's Europe-leading position in the industry.
The proposals in the Brexit white paper aim to minimise disruption in trade and end free movement of people, while still ensuring that businesses can attract the ‘best and brightest' staff.
Fairbairn said in her speech that the proposals "get pretty close to the answer firms are looking for", but are "not perfect". She said that there is more work to do, especially with regards to the UK's large service sector.
The UK's aerospace, defence, security and space industries - which Fairbairn said are the best in Europe, and second in the world - must remain at the heart of the country's economy. Europe-wide collaboration is essential to ensuring success outside the UK, as well.
"We must get our future relationship with the EU right. Your industries are crystal clear that we need frictionless trade with the EU, so parts can travel from Toulouse to Filton, or from Hamburg to Broughton, without delay or extra cost; mobility of people alongside goods, so engineers can fly from Southampton to Sweden to fix aircraft wherever they break; and maintaining links with EU R&D programmes such as the landmark £8 billion Galileo Satellite project.
"All of this is vital not just for the UK, but for the whole continent of Europe. As one CEO here today put it to me last week, aerospace is a team sport.
"Without collaboration - at scale - all parts of Europe will be weakened in the global race."
The secret of the industry's success is "true collaboration" with the government and British universities, said Fairbairn. However, she also warned that access to skilled workers is vital.
"This sector is one of the few that has an order book stretching out beyond 2030. And to deliver it, having the right people will be everything. In the civil sectors, access to skills from overseas is vital. Of course, we do need highly skilled workers, but technical backgrounds also matter…
"Last week's blueprint for Brexit...was a welcome start; but for a truly world-class industry we need a truly world-class immigration system, and we will be urging the Government to set out the details on this as soon as possible and in close consultation with your sector and others."
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