The UK might have to set up its own satellite navigation system if it is thrown out after Brexit, according to officials.
The Galileo project – a 10 billion euro programme that was launched by the EU to rival the US global positioning system – is leading to intense arguments between the UK and the rest of Europe.
Britain is already being frozen out of the programme despite there being many months until it will actually leave the EU.
If the UK continues to be ignored in that way it will have to launch its own satellite system, said a spokeswoman for Britain’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“The UK’s preference is to remain in Galileo as part of a strong security partnership with Europe. If Galileo no longer meets our security requirements and UK industry cannot compete on a fair basis, it is logical to look at alternatives,” she said.
The European Commission has started to exclude Britain and its companies from sensitive future work on Galileo ahead of the country’s exit from the EU in a year’s time, a move which UK business minister Greg Clark said threatened security collaboration.
“We have made it clear we do not accept the Commission’s position on Galileo, which could seriously damage mutually beneficial collaboration on security and defence matters,” he said in an emailed statement.
Britain has called on the European Commission to reverse its position and allow UK-based companies to be eligible to bid for upcoming Galileo contracts, the spokeswoman said.
The Commission’s exclusion of British-based companies has meant Airbus has had to commit to move some of its UK-based Galileo operations to an EU country after Brexit, a spokesman for the European planemaker said.
Airbus operates Galileo’s ground control services from Portsmouth in southern England and the spokesman said that about 100 jobs would be put at risk if it has to move.
Britain has played a big part in Galileo so far, carrying out about 15 percent of the work on it. Clark said that if Britain were excluded it could result in years of delays and higher costs for the project “stretching into the billions”.
The FT also said Clark was taking legal advice on reclaiming the 1.4 billion euros Britain has invested in Galileo since the project started in 2003.
Additional reporting by agencies
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