UK ultimatum to Brussels over Galileo access
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, the country's finance minister warned on Friday.
Philip Hammond's comments follow 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," Hammond told reporters before a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.
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If it proves impossible to remain in the project, Britain could either build its own rival satellite network, or work with other partners outside Europe and the US, he said.
"For national security strategic reasons we need access to a system and we'll ensure that we get it," Hammond added.
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.
The Guardian cited an unnamed EU official as saying that Britain was asking for access to secure data that not all member states currently have, which was a "big ask" for a future non-member state.
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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.
The Financial Times reported on Friday that the British government had made membership of the project a condition for future EU defense cooperation.
Britain told the European Union on Thursday it will demand the repayment of up to €1.15 billion from its final divorce bill, if the bloc restricts its access to Galileo.
UK firms have already been excluded from future work in highly secure areas of the project.
mm/uhe (AFP, AP, Reuters)