The impact of Brexit on the aerospace sector Contents


48.The UK and EU aerospace sectors has benefitted from its ability to plug skill gaps and move people between plants and sites as a result of freedom of movement within the EU. ADS estimates that 4 per cent of staff in its sectors in the UK are from the rest of the EU.66 The Home Office’s Short Occupation List includes for the aerospace industry electrical machine design engineer, power electronics engineer, process planning engineer, aerothermal engineer, stress engineer, chief of engineering, advance tool and fixturing engineer and purchasing engineer.67 Freedom of movement is an important issue for aerospace research and development (R&D). According to the Aerospace Technology Institute: “EU nationals working and studying in the UK… play a large role in UK aerospace R&D. Losing or restricting access to skills would be detrimental to the UK’s position as a technology leader.”68

49.In this context, we welcome the increased clarity and assurance provided by the Phase 1 Negotiations Report on EU citizens’ rights and the repeated statements from the Government that businesses in the UK and EU must be able to “attract and employ the people they need”.69 Although the Government’s White Paper on immigration, due after the Migration Advisory Committee has reported in September 2018, is expected to provide more detail on engineering shortages, the need to plug skills gaps in aerospace is already known and should influence negotiation objectives. The Government should prioritise ensuring that our key manufacturing sectors such as aerospace retain sufficient and timely access to essential skills. The Government should seek to maintain the UK’s openness to skilled workers from the EU, as well as looking to which skills and qualifications could be attracted from beyond the EU.

50.Respondents to this inquiry have emphasised that intra-company transfers are a particularly prevalent issue in aerospace, given the presence of integrated pan-European supply chains and multinational firms. BEIS’s evidence observes that, under freedom of movement, “UK-employed, specialist engineers are able to relocate with minimal burden to assembly lines in France or Germany. This may be required at little notice, for short periods of time to keep production lines running.”70 Airbus employees conduct around 80,000 business trips per year between the UK and the rest of the EU, and the firm has around 1,300 UK employees working elsewhere in the EU, and around 600 EU27 employees working in the UK.71 The Government should ensure that intra-company transfers and posted worker arrangements are flexible, rapid and require the minimum level of administration after Brexit.

66 ADS, (BRS0006)

67 Home Office, Immigration Rules Appendix K: shortage occupation list, 15 January 2018 update

68 Aerospace Technology Institute, (BRS0008)

69 Prime Minister’s Office, ‘PM speech on our future economic partnership with the European Union’, 2 March 2018

70 BEIS, (BRS0011)

71 Airbus, (BRS0012)

Published: 19 March 2018