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UK aerospace industry warns of risk to jobs and investment without EASA membership

LONDON, March 9 (Reuters) - Britain's aerospace industry warned on Monday that jobs and investment could be put at risk if the country leaves the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) at the end of the year.

Britain's aerospace sector, represented by industry body ADS, has called for the country to retain its membership of EASA when a post-Brexit transition period ends at the end of this year.

But the country's transport Minister Grant Shapps told U.S.-based publication Aviation Week that Britain will leave EASA after 31 December.

"We will leave EASA," the publication quoted Shapps as saying. "So, the powers will revert to the CAA, who are probably one of the world’s leading regulators and the expertise will need to come home to do that, but we’ll do it in a gradual way."

ADS said that this transfer of powers to the UK aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, was against the wishes of the industry.

As well as being home to companies like Rolls-Royce, which makes engines for large aircraft, European aviation company Airbus also has huge operations in the UK, where it employs 14,000 people.

"We have been clear that continued participation in EASA is the best option to maintain the competitiveness of our 36 billion pound ($47 billion) aerospace industry and our access to global export markets," ADS chief executive Paul Everitt said, adding that without EASA membership, the industry could also be less attractive to investors.

"It is essential that (the government) works with us to deliver a regime that does not put jobs at risk in an industry that employs 111,000 people in highly skilled roles across the UK," he said.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Department for Transport said the UK would work with the EU on their future relationship.

"We will maintain world-leading safety standards for industry, with the CAA taking over these responsibilities, and will continue to work with colleagues in the EU to establish a new regulatory relationship," she said in an emailed statement.

EASA standards are accepted by other global safety regulators, such as the U.S.'s Federal Aviation Administration, meaning British companies can participate in the global aerospace supply chain. ADS estimates that it would take up to 10 years and cost up to 40 million pounds for the CAA to take on EASA's responsibilities.

The CAA was not immediately available to comment. ($1 = 0.7619 pounds) (Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)