New disputes over the UK’s future involvement in the Galileo satellite programme

The UK’s future involvement in the Galileo satellite programme is now under fresh scrutiny. Following the news that the monitoring centre will be relocated to Madrid, the EU has now announced that the UK could be shut out of the project altogether.

This has caused outrage within British companies and MP’s; the country’s taxpayers have already spent over £1 billion on the project. However, the majority of EU member states recently voted in favour of blocking British firms from bidding on future contracts, which could threaten the progress of Brexit talks.

The programme, which is worth an estimated 9 billion euros, was introduced as a rival satellite navigation system to the US. Once fully operational in two years, it will be used to provide accurate and up to date information for governments, industries and the military.

British companies have been heavily involved in the designing and building of the system, and EU negotiators have warned that restricting future involvement could lead to additional costs and delays of up to three years.

The UK science minister, Sam Gyimah said: “The government has been clear that our preference is to contribute fully to Galileo as part of a deep security partnership with the EU, and that negotiations should be allowed to run their course.”

“By forcing through this vote, while excluding UK companies from the contracts on unfounded security grounds, the European Commission has put this at risk. There is an option on the table that would benefit both the UK and EU. If that is not accepted by the EU, we are a proud and confident nation and will be looking at all alternatives.”

But, the commission argues that allowing the UK to continue their involvement in the programme goes against EU principals. A recent paper said that, as countries outside the union can’t enjoy the same benefits as member states, the UK demands are beyond the regulations.

A spokesperson for Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator (Stefaan de Rynck) said in a recent tweet: “As @MichelBarnier said in a speech on 14 May, ‘we need to put the cooperation on Galileo between the EU and the UK on a new basis’”.

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