Now, Brexit is a fact: the United Kingdom may have left the European Union, but it is certainly not leaving ESA and neither is it leaving Europe itself. ESA has a special role to play in ensuring the UK remains a strong player in Europe while the politicians will have the task of reaching agreement on cooperation between the EU and UK as soon as possible.

Cooperation is a powerful enabler and we all have a responsibility to do all we can to strengthen ties. Space, for its part, has much to offer in bridging earthly divides. With Brexit now upon us, this role becomes even more important. As the UK remains a Member State of ESA making valuable contributions in terms both of content and of funding, we will continue just as before to focus on integrating British industry and science in ESA programmes. What we must not do is give any opportunities to those who seek to gain an advantage from this difficult situation.

There are various approaches available to us to work together in the best interests of Europe. A number of institutions exist in the space domain which can play their part in developing a United Space in Europe, from the EU and ESA to Eumetsat and ESO.

On the EU side, I hope that agreement will soon be reached on how the UK can participate in the upcoming EU Space Programme, starting officially in 2021. As we are now starting negotiations on the Financial Framework Agreement with the EU/EC, a positive signal of how we might include the UK would be very helpful.

Preparations for Space19+ constituted a major effort lasting more than 2 years. In order to continue the work of adapting ESA to the rapidly changing space environment, we will start preparations for the next ESA Council meeting at ministerial level very soon. Careful consideration will be given to the overarching aspect of the joint development of Europe as a strong player and partner in the global space arena.

I myself witnessed the start of the Brexit era with a trip to London to share my views at European Astrofest in a presentation titled “Europe and Space19+: the decade ahead”. What is clear is that the UK’s strong and important role in ESA remains and that we are eager to further develop our establishment in Harwell.

While in the past space has so often served to bridge global divides, we can now once again harness its power as a “Bridge over Troubled Water” driving cooperation within Europe in this new era.