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Galileo Row Puts Security Partnership With EU At Risk After Brexit, MPs Told

The rows with the European Space Agency and European Commission concern the level of access the UK will have to the Public Regulated Service...

NASA GPS Satellite

Image: NASA GPS Satellite 

The EU's stance on the UK's involvement with the satellite navigation system Galileo post-Brexit, raises questions over Britain's future security relationship with the European Union, according to Defence procurement minister Guto Bebb.

Mr Bebb said it was "very disappointing" that the UK's involvement in the scheme faced being restricted because the country would be viewed as a "potential security risk" after Brexit.

He criticised a decision that will exclude UK firms from involvement in the next stage of the project and questioned whether the European Commission was putting the future of the Galileo project at the heart of its thinking in its approach.

Defence minister Guto Bebb: They understand the contribution that the United Kingdom has made

Rebecca Evernden, international director at the UK Space Agency, said there were only "weeks rather than months" to change the stance taken over the UK's involvement or face the prospect of British firms being frozen out of the project.

The rows with the European Space Agency and European Commission concern the level of access the UK will have to the Public Regulated Service (PRS) - a navigation and timing signal intended for use by government agencies, armed forces and emergency services.

The UK insists that for its involvement in the system to be worth continuing, it must be able to have detailed technical information about the PRS signal in order to rely on it for military purposes, something the EU is only prepared to grant to members of the bloc.

The UK's future status as a "third country" after Brexit means that its firms may not be able to participate in creating some of the more sensitive elements of the project.

Mr Bebb told MPs on the Science and Technology Committee:

"If we don't overcome the problems that we have at the moment, it is difficult to see how the UK can benefit fully from Galileo, certainly from a defence perspective."

The Government has said it could develop its own rival to Galileo if it cannot get full access to the EU project and Mr Bebb said "we do feel quite strongly we do have the capability in the UK to deliver such a programme" at a cost of £3-£5 billion.

He added that the security partnership envisaged by Theresa May in her speech in Munich in February risked being undermined by the decision on Galileo.

"The Prime Minister's speech in Munich and her aspirations in order to achieve that deep and meaningful security partnership with the EU moving forward is put in doubt because one of the issues that does create genuine concern is the classification of the UK as a potential security risk in relation to this project.

"That's very disappointing, I'm not sure that anyone in this room would consider us to be a security risk.

"The exchange of information that we undertake on a regular, daily basis with our Nato partners is not dissimilar to what we have asked in relation to the Galileo project moving forward."