When it comes to the future of the UK’s involvement in the Galileo satellite system, the public position from the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is that the UK would be treated like a non-EU country. This would mean that the UK would be shut out of the programme altogether. This idea had previously caused outrage among British companies and the government, who argue that the UK has already spent over £1 billion on the project.
This is one of the many concerns facing the British government in the run up to Brexit. But, new plans have now been released that suggest a unique deal could be reached on the project in future. According to sources, Michel Barnier is considering the idea of offering better terms to the UK than other third-party countries. This could mean British police and army forces would be given uninterrupted access to the signals of the satellite system.
Originally built to rival GPS technology in the US, as well as Russia’s global navigation and satellite system (Glonass), Galileo now has 26 satellites in total which provide free global positioning information to app developers, smartphone companies and search and rescue teams across the world. The current Brexit disputes are over the public regulated service (PRS). This can be used by governments during national emergencies.
Barnier has already said he wants a maintain a partnership with the UK when it comes to the “most sensitive signal”. However, during a meeting last month, the Commission discussed the idea of allowing Britain to remain involved in the decision making process when it comes to PRS. One official said: “To me this is not heresy, this is the logical consequences of a close partnership on security.” Another official added that the UK could be given a guarantee that they wouldn’t be “cut off in any circumstances.”
Despite this, the EU still insists that UK firms would be excluded from building modules for the satellites. This is because, as detailed in EU law, only companies that are based within the bloc can bid for the contracts. The EU say that all the contractors are managed by authorities within the bloc, and that they are subject to EU oversight – the British government agreed to this rule when it was introduced.
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