PM says UK ‘not short of options’ despite EU satellite shutout

Written by Sam Trendall on 4 December 2018 in News
News

Theresa May says government will press ahead with development of sat nav system in light of continued impasse over UK’s involvement in Galileo programme

The UK is to press on with plans to build its own satellite navigation technology after being unable to reach a satisfactory agreement with the European Commission over post-Brexit access to the EU Galileo satellite system.  

Since its conception almost 20 years ago, the UK has contributed about £1.2bn to the development of Galileo. The programme is already about halfway towards its ultimate goal of having 30 satellites in orbit by 2020 (illustrations of which are pictured above).

But the UK and EC have been in dispute in recent months about the extent of the UK’s continued involvement in the project once the country has left the European Union. The commission has maintained that the UK should not be allowed to continue to work on the development of Galileo’s encrypted navigation system – for use by the military and emergency services – which is due for launch in 2026.


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That being the case, the UK will no longer seek to use these secure elements of the Galileo system, prime minister Theresa May has announced. 

The country will, instead, begin explorations for developing its own sat nav system – while continuing to use the US-developed GPS system.

“I have been clear from the outset that the UK will remain firmly committed to Europe’s collective security after Brexit,” May added. “But given the commission’s decision to bar the UK from being fully involved in developing all aspects of Galileo it is only right that we find alternatives. I cannot let our armed services depend on a system we cannot be sure of. That would not be in our national interest. And as a global player with world-class engineers and steadfast allies around the world, we are not short of options.”

The PM announced earlier this year that the government had set aside a contingency fund of £92m to support the early development of a UK satellite system. The government claimed that, following this announcement, more than 50 UK companies “have expressed interest in the project and a series of key contracts are now being tendered”.

Any system developed in the UK must be compatible with GPS, May said, and the necessary physical infrastructure for a sat nav will be located across the UK’s various overseas territories and crown dependencies.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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