Remainers are becoming more and more excited over the impact of Brexit on UK participation in EU space activities, especially the Galileo satellite network. The Galileo navigation system is the EU’s rival to US-owned GPS. A key element of the system, designed for military and emergency services, is a timing and navigation signal called the PRS (Public Regulated Service). The European Commission says the UK will not be able to access the PRS without further agreements after Brexit. Michel Barnier is weaponising the issue in his latest attempt at brinkmanship. He said yesterday:
“Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”
That’s more than a bit rich from Barnier: British experts designed much of the cryptography behind the system and developed the security technology protecting PRS. The satellites are currently controlled from Portsmouth. UK companies control the crucial security information – those firms have been reminded by ministers that they should not enter into new Galileo contracts in response to EU posturing. Moreover, the UK has poured £1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money into developing the system. It is already years late. If the EU makes an issue of it, the British will withdraw, sending costs spiralling for the EU-27 and delaying the project even further due to their lack of expertise…
Meanwhile, the UK government has already started work on its own system. A UK Space Agency spokesman said:
“The UK Space Agency is leading the work to develop options for a British alternative to Galileo, to guarantee our satellite positioning, navigation and timing needs are met in the future.”
Taking back control to infinity and beyond?
Switzerland and Canada are member countries of the European Space Agency without being in the EU or, in Canada’s case, europe. This will, as with Euratom and the Open Skies Agreement, turn out to be bluster on both sides and a deal will be done…