In a technical note from the UK government on UK participation in Galileo, Britain is making unrestricted access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system a condition for future defence and security collaboration with the bloc.
Future UK participation in Galileo should be agreed as part of the future security partnership between the UK and the EU. The UK and EU must work through issues relating to access to security-related elements of the programme in the framework of negotiations on the security partnership. These negotiations should not be preempted or prejudged by actions that restrict UK participation. Continued close collaboration in Galileo following the UK’s withdrawal is in the mutual strategic interests of the UK and the EU.
The UK is also demanding that Brussels reopen tenders touching on Galileo’s highly secure military grade signal, the Public Regulated Service, and revise requirements that all related work be done from EU member states.
A question of trust
The UK argues that exclusion from Galileo would damage the trust needed on both sides for a full security partnership.
« From a security perspective, any gap in UK involvement in the design and development of Galileo and PRS, whereby the UK is unable to manufacture components or assure those manufactured by member states at any point, will constitute an irreparable security risk, » said the British government in the document. « It will mean the UK will not be able to rely on the system for our own security and defence needs. »
Doing it alone
Britain has threatened to develop its own separate satellite navigation system if it loses access to the European Union’s €10 billion ($11.7 billion) Galileo project, Finance Minister Philip Hammond warned on May 25, ahead of a meeting of EU Finance Ministers in Brussels.
His comments follow the conclusions of the latest Brexit negotiations, and the EU’s refusal to let the UK remain part of the planned satellite navigation system after it leaves the bloc next year, despite Britain having investing millions of euros in the project.
« The plan has always been to work as a core member of the Galileo project, contributing financially and technically to the project. If it proves impossible to remain in the project, Britain could either build its own rival satellite network, or work with the US or other partners. For national security strategic reasons we need access to a system and we’ll ensure that we get it.”
The European Commission has said non-member states cannot be trusted with sensitive data that will run on the highly encrypted part of the program, used by EU governments and militaries.
Asking for a financial compensation
The British note also suggests that a ban from participating in the Galileo project would result in a renegotiation of the divorce bill that the two parties agreed on in December, which currently stands at 39 billion pounds (40-45 billion euros). According to the UK, the preliminary agreement reached at the end of the year supports the continuation of its participation in Galileo, a program of 10 billion euros used both in civilian and military. In case of ban, the UK asks to recover 1 billion pounds (1.14 billion euros) in compensation for UK investments.
According to The Times, only a group of German officials in the Commission support the ban. France, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Baltic states have objected to this exclusion.
More about Galilleo
The EU’s Galileo global navigation system, complete with 30 satellites, is due to be fully operational in 2026. Commissioned in 1993, Galileo is set to rival the global positioning system (GPS), which was built and controlled by the US. The new project’s 30 satellites are due for completion in 2020. UK firms have already been excluded from future work in highly secure areas of the project.
© Photo credit : Pixabay « Galileo »