Britain’s aerospace sector, one of the largest in the world, is more protected from certain consequences of Brexit than other areas of British industry.
This is down to the 1980 Plurilateral Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, which eliminates duties on all civil aircraft and their components.
In other ways, however, British aviation manufacturing could suffer along with other sectors.
The chief concern here is access to skilled labor. Speaking to Inside MRO in 2016, British manufacturer GKN reported that 10% of its UK workforce was composed of non-British EU nationals. It also said it benefited from European Union free movement of labor rules not only for its full-time employees, but also from consultants who could be flown in at short notice to resolve emergencies such as a manufacturing stoppage.
Despite giving assurances about the status of EU nationals already in the country, Britain is determined to end free movement of labor after it exits the EU.
Supporters of Brexit argue that this will ensure a fairer system by not discriminating against non-EU foreign nationals who want to work in the country.
However, new data shows that policies will probably need to change if non-EU immigrants are to make up for any shortfall in skilled labor from the EU.
According to the Campaign for Science and Engineering, more than 1,600 engineers and IT specialists – all from outside the EU – were denied visas from December 2017 through March 2018 because monthly quotas had been exceeded.
All 1,600 had job offers from UK companies.
The government wants to encourage British companies to fully explore domestic labor pools before looking abroad, but it is debatable whether the country is producing enough home-grown talent in areas like engineering, despite the best efforts of MROs.
If it is not, another worrying development may be that EU nationals – despite assurances about their long-term status in the UK – are upping sticks, leaving the country’s skilled labor pool depleted and without means of adequate replenishment.