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Farnborough Airshow: Brexit and bulging order books dominate



The weather forecast may be warm and sunny, but there is still likely to be a cloud hanging over the Farnborough Airshow this week.

The show is big event of the year for the aerospace industry. It’s where the latest multi-billion-dollar fighters and sleek airliners soar through the skies.

However, on trade days – which kick-off the show before Farnborough opens its door to the general public – the air display itself is merely a distraction.

The show attracts about 100,000 trade visitors from 100 countries. The focus is on networking and doing deals – at the last Farnborough Airshow, in 2016, those deals were worth $124bn (£95bn).

For aerospace companies in Britain, the event is a vital shop window.

But this year fears about the future after Brexit are looming, and for many people will dominate gossip in the plush chalets and meeting rooms.

Paul Everitt is head of ADS Group, which represents the UK aerospace, defence and space sectors. He insists that any failure to agree a good deal on Brexit will hurt the sector.

“If the costs of operating in the UK become higher, then our ability to attract new investment will be diminished”, he says.

The current uncertainty is already taking its toll, he thinks.

“We are a long term industry. When a big investment decision comes along we are not in such a good place. If it continues we could see an erosion of our position.”

ADS has welcomed the government’s White Paper, published on Thursday, which it says represents good progress; but it insists there are important and complex issues still to be

Such concern isn’t just being felt among the big players. Many of the smaller suppliers which throng the exhibition halls at Farnborough will also be wondering what the future will bring.

The government, however, may go some way to answering such questions this week.

On Monday, a major announcement is expected from the Ministry of Defence, setting out details of its Combat Air Strategy.

It is expected to explain its plans for developing and building new fighter aircraft from the 2020s onwards – when production of the Eurofighter Typhoon is likely to be wound down – and protecting the capabilities of the UK defence sector.

Research funding

There may also be an announcement from the government on which of eight possible sites will become home to the UK’s first spaceport.

The ambition for the spaceport is that it becomes a hub for the UK commercialism of the space sector, through such things as satellite launches and tourism.

There is also talk that the UK may use Farnborough to unveil research funding for aerospace technologies, including for electric-powered aviation projects.



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