Defence and space firms 'don't want out of the EU'

A total of 86 per cent of UK aerospace, defence, security and space companies believe it would be better for their businesses if the UK stayed in the EU, a survey has shown.

Just two per cent of the 900 members of the trade organisation ADS Group would vote to leave. The most popular reason cited for wanting to stay in the EU was free trade on the continent at 60 per cent, followed by the simplification of regulations and overall economic growth.

Respondents felt that the EU referendum presented an opportunity to prioritise increased funding from the EU for UK companies wishing to invest in research and development. Three-quarters of respondents described EU membership as having a positive impact on their business, with only one per cent describing it as being negative.

Currently the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors have outpaced national productivity levels by a considerable margin, with a collective turnover of £56bn annually.

Paul Everitt, ADS Group chief executive, said: “Our industries are clear that the UK's continued membership of the EU is good for companies, their employees and the future prosperity of the country.

“Our sectors value the UK Government's ability to influence the rules of the EU single market, its role in helping to shape important international regulation and market access, as well as the investment in European science, technology and innovation.”

Everitt said that ADS would seek to talk to politicians in the next few weeks about the EU situation, with the intention to inform them, not frighten them.

When asked about freedom of movement, 23 per cent of the companies agreed that free labour added to their business, with around five per cent of employees working for ADS companies being currently located in the EU.

Glynn Bellamy, head of aerospace at KPMG UK, said: “Based on the survey, there is also a concern that UK companies may miss out on the cream of European engineering talent because of restrictions on labour movement.

“Or, suffer from a decline in inward investment as Britain potentially becomes a less-attractive destination for overseas investors seeking to access the major European market, whilst benefiting from the UK’s competitive position.”

A number of pan-European businesses think that open borders are a competitive advantage in terms of creating a mobile workforce where skills can be accessed at a European level and deployed where the demand exists.

Furthermore, within the UK there is a well-documented skills shortage when it comes to experienced engineers. Many UK companies have sought to address this skills gap by recruiting graduates and engineers from across the EU. This increases the pool of labour, mirroring the global nature of the industry.

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