The U.K. will spend £92 million on scoping out an alternative to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system as a contingency in case the bloc freezes it out of the project, the government announced today.
Britain wants to remain involved in Galileo post Brexit, but being “an ‘end user’ shut out from security discussions and contracts, and without critical information about the systems’ security” would not be acceptable, British PM Theresa May told reporters Tuesday.
“Unless we receive assurance that we can collaborate on a close basis in the future — like the close security partners we aspire to be — we are clear that we will withdraw U.K. support for Galileo and pursue our own sovereign satellite system,” May said. “And this is not an idle threat to achieve our negotiating objectives.”
In May, the U.K. published a “technical note” — first reported by POLITICO — stating that it could pursue the creation of its own rival system if it did not receive adequate access to Galileo. Speaking to reporters in Brussels in May, Chancellor Philip Hammond also warned Britain “will have to go it alone” and “build a competing system” if British firms are shut out of the project.
In a press release announcing the £92 million in funding, U.K. Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “We have repeatedly highlighted the specialist expertise we bring to the project and the risks in time delays and cost increases that the European Commission is taking by excluding U.K. industry.”
The European Commission has repeatedly said the U.K. cannot remain a full Galileo partner after Brexit because as a third country, it cannot access the same encrypted information as members of the bloc or be involved in the system’s future development, regardless of its past contributions to the project.
The U.K. has thus far contributed 12 percent toward the €10-billion project, which is supposed to be completed by 2020.